St. John’s senior Brett Vonderwell tries to get the early jump in his 170-pound Division III State Wrestling finals Saturday night by shooting on Mechanicsburg’s Kaleb Romero. However, Romero — a 3-time State champion to start the tournament — turned the tables and claimed his fourth title. (DHI Media/Rene Kleman)
St. John’s senior Brett Vonderwell tries to get the early jump in his 170-pound Division III State Wrestling finals Saturday night by shooting on Mechanicsburg’s Kaleb Romero. However, Romero — a 3-time State champion to start the tournament — turned the tables and claimed his fourth title. (DHI Media/Rene Kleman)
COLUMBUS — St. John’s senior Brett Vonderwell was seeking to give the Blue Jays their first-ever State wrestling title Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.

To do that, though, he had to beat 3-time State champion and unbeaten — and nationally ranked — Kaleb Romero of Mechanicsburg in the 170-pound finals of the 80th annual State Wrestling Championships.

Unfortunately for Vonderwell, he couldn’t do so, getting pinned in 52 seconds to fall short in the Division III title match.

Vonderwell, a 3-time State qualifier himself, finished his senior year at 44-6.

Romero (52-0) ends his high school career at 202-4, one of the rare 200-win Ohio scholastic grapplers to so achieve that result. He also became the 29th Ohio high-schooler to win four titles, adding to his 138-pound, 152-pound and 160-pound championships of the previous three seasons.

Romero will continue his wrestling career at the very same spot that he ended it: at The Schott while wrestling for Ohio State.

“Our game plan was to slow it down on him but I let the emotions of the environment get to me. I attacked right away instead of laying back and it cost me; if you make a mistake at all, he capitalizes,” Vonderwell said. “You try not to let everything get to you but I did with the excitement. You have to stay relaxed and still focused during the day waiting for the match to come.

“He’s a great wrestler and I had to wrestle a perfect match; I had lost to him twice this year. I had nothing to lose, so I just went at him and see what could happen.”

Vonderwell qualified for State the previous two years, becoming the second Blue Jay grappler to earn that distinction.

“It’s been a great year for me. The goal for me from the start of this season was to get back here, win that first match and get on the podium,” Vonderwell said. “You obviously want to win it all but outside of not winning it, this is great.

“It’s a pretty good place to end your career.”

His coach, Derek Sterling, agreed.

“He was so determined to make it back and do better; he worked hard to get to this point and this was a reward for all the hard work,” Sterling added. “It came down to him going up against an outstanding wrestler.

“He’s had a great career wrestling for me and has set another standard for our program.”

Wayne Trace senior Ruger Goeltzenleuchter (44-5) had an injury default in the fifth-place match at 126 pounds, falling to Niko Chilson of Rootstown.

He had also defaulted to A.J. Warner of Legacy Christian Academy earlier in the day.

“He actually got hurt last night in a championship semifinal and tried to go earlier today; he just couldn’t overcome that injury, so we had to default him in the finals. It’s hard to see it end on an injury,” Raiders’ coach George Clemens said. “His only two losses before the tournament were to Mechanicsburg’s Tyler Wetzel this year, so he had a great year and a great career. He wanted to finish higher than last season’s fifth.

“Before I got here as the coach, we never had a State qualifier. Last year, we had our first champion, my son George, and those two have helped set a high standard at Wayne Trace. We have a solid group of young wrestlers and two guys to really look up to.”