Division II district wrestling: NDCL's Wheatley successfully etching his name in program history books

Mar. 1—It doesn't take long to scan through the list of state champion wrestlers at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, nor does it take long to sift through a litany of grapplers at the school who received a college wrestling scholarship.

That's because those lists do not exist.

Bryce Wheatley is in the midst of changing those aspects.

With a pair of wins at the Division II tournament at Kenston on March 1, Wheatley advanced to the semifinal round on March 2. His first victory of the day gave him career win No. 150. A win in the semifinals clinches a third-straight state berth for the NDCL 215-pounder, while two will send him to Columbus as a No. 1 seed in a tournament-opening bracket.

Wheatley is coming off a junior season in which he was a sixth-place finisher at 190 pounds. If he can win a state title at 215 — and if you couple that with the national letter of intent he signed to wrestle at Southeast University in Lakeland, Fla. — he will achieve a double-dip that no one in school history has ever accomplished as a state titlist AND a college scholarship wrestler.

Heck, even if he only does one of those things, he's in the rarest of program air.

"This means a lot to me," Wheatley said. "It took a lot of hard work on my part. Coach (Mike) Fleeman helped me a lot."

To get to where he is at this point, Wheatley had to make a crucial decision earlier this season to cut down to 215 from heavyweight. After wrestling all summer at heavyweight, where he defeated state placers from Georgia and Pennsylvania, as well as a state champion from Florida, in the Disney Duals, Wheatley figured his senior year would be spent at heavyweight.

But life as an undersized heavyweight in the 245-250-pound range wasn't easy.

"When you're wrestling guys who are 280, that's a big difference," he said. "I alpha tested at the beginning of the season at 250, but I've been slowly dropping down for the past few months, just sticking to a better diet and eating more lean foods, not all that processed stuff."

Wheatley missed certifying for 215 pounds by three pounds at the Crown Conference Tournament but hit the required weight prior to the Kenston Sectional. He won that tournament with a second-period pin over Bedford's Phillip Malone in the finals to go with the pair of 39-second pins he chalked up earlier in the tournament.

Wheatley likely would have had his hands full just getting to the podium at heavyweight at the state tournament. Josh Lowe of IntermatOhio had him ranked as the 10th-best Division II heavyweight. Now he's in a 215-pound statewide bracket where only Girard's Isaac Griffith — who is cross-bracketed from Wheatley this weekend — cracks Lowe's top 16 in the state from the Kenston District.

"I like my chances now," Wheatley said.

When the season ends, hopefully with a gold medal hanging around his neck, Wheatley said he's excited for his opportunity at Southeastern University, an NAIA program in Florida. The Fire's coaching staff first started scouting Wheatley, unbeknownst to him, at the Disney Duals this past summer.

"Coach (Koby) Reyes called me one night when I was out in the garage working my on my motorcycle and said they wanted me to come down for a visit," said Wheatley. "I had no clue where Lakeland, Fla., was. I had to look it ups. But I had a great trip there and loved it.

"They have the No. 4 team in the nation in NAIA. I'll be coming in with an opportunity to work with a really good drill partner (junior All-American Gabe Jacobs), who will be a senior next year, and I'll get to learn from him. I'm excited for this opportunity."

Division II at Kenston

Semifinal pairings

(Area only)

126: Jack Harrison, Madison, vs. Kolten Barker, Louisville

132: John Jones Jr., Benedictine, vs. Giovanni Duniec, Padua.

150: Ethan Bartlett, West Geauga, vs. Tristan Craddock, Cloverleaf.

157: Izaiah Siler, Madison, vs. Kaden King, Medina Buckeye; Brian Denamen, West Geauga, vs. Kyle Vencill, Edgewood.

165: Noah Blough, Madison, vs. Devin Shaw-Mason, Padua.

175: Christopher Maloney, Benedictine, vs. Steven Duffy, Woodridge.

215: Bryce Wheatley, NDCL, vs. Jakeb Beard, Louisville.

285: Will Greenberg, Hawken, vs. Vince Luce, Canfield.