Ravenna wrestler leaving a path of destruction

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Brandon Hayes has been leaving a path of destruction on wrestling mats all over northeast Ohio thus far this winter. And the Ravenna junior hopes that trail doesn't stop until he reaches Ohio high school wrestling's Promised Land _ that is, the top of the podium at Wright State University's Nutter Center _ in early March. Considering the havoc he wreaked at this past weekend's Western Reserve Conference Tournament at Solon High School, picturing Hayes wearing the state champion's ribbon around his neck isn't all that far-fetched. His closest match at the tourney was a 12-5 decision over Stow's Donald Dew in the semifinals, and he concluded the tournament by scoring a convincing 17-4 major decision over Solon's Diangelo Penn for the 103-pound championship. It was his second straight 103-pound WRC title, and Hayes' win helped give the Ravens their ninth straight league team championship. "I thought I'd win it again," he said, "but not that easily." In fact, Hayes has been dominating his opponents all season as he eyes the ultimate prize in Dayton in two months, fashioning a perfect 16-0 record in the process. Aside from his WRC title, he has also won championships at the Medina and Solon tournaments this season. "He hasn't been challenged too many times this year," said Ravenna coach Steve Reedy. "Maybe in the finals at Medina, but other than that he's been kicking everyone's tail." It's all part of Hayes' grand scheme: improve each time he takes the mat, peak by season's end, and win the coveted state championship. "I'm shooting towards that," Hayes said of capturing the state title. "It's always on my mind. Always. If I don't win it, it will be a disappointment." As a sophomore, Hayes finished fifth in the state in Division II at 103 pounds. It was at last year's state tournament where he first began to dream of winning it all. "I wanted to win it last year _ you have to think like that, or else you shouldn't bother going down _ but I thought finishing fifth as a sophomore wasn't too bad," said Hayes, who has been wrestling since second grade. "After that, I thought I could do it (this year). Now that I have state experience, I won't go down there thinking about how many people there are in the stands and all that. Definitely, I'll have an edge. "And this year I'm stronger than I was as a sophomore, I'm more experienced and I'm bigger than most of the people I wrestle." Reedy thinks Hayes has a realistic shot at winning a state title. "He sure can," said Reedy. "That's what our goal is. He talks about it every day. He's just getting better all the time _ he's a wrestle-holic. "I've had kids with more talent, but I've never had a wrestler in 14 years as dedicated as he is. He just loves to wrestle year-round." While Hayes is a physical wrestler, he isn't exactly an acrobat on the mat. "I think I'm boring, actually," he said. "I question myself how I win sometimes. I don't have a lot of moves, but I think a lot on the mat. I'm a smart wrestler. If one move doesn't work, I'll just try something else." And at this point of the season, Hayes just wants to make sure he's steadily getting better, regardless of who he wrestles and what the outcome may be. "I'm not too concerned about my record, being 16-0," he said. "I just need to keep on wrestling hard. I'm not really worried about losing. I just have to go out and wrestle, get my techniques down and peak for state." In fact, Hayes feels he's beginning to round into championship form right now, in mid-January. "I'm almost there," he said. "I'm still wrestling well and I've gone against some tough kids, so I'd say I'm almost there."

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