Recap of Mentor Wrestlers at the OHSAA Wrestling State Tournament

The OHSAA hosted its first-ever girls wrestling state tournament alongside the boys state tournament, and Mentor had participants in both!

Maddie Menchaca, Contributor

In the 2019-2020 school year, Mentor Wrestling started a girls only wrestling program at the high school level following the founding of the first female wrestling team in Northeast Ohio by Lutheran West High School.

I wanted to start a girls wrestling program because it is a sport that anyone can do,” said Coach LaManna, the founder of Mentor Girls Wrestling. “It would allow for girls to compete at the same level of athleticism as the boys without rule changes or slight differences in the sport. I wanted girls to have the chance to gain all the benefits of a wrestler’s mentality on the mat in life.”

With this only being the fourth year of having a program at Mentor, the team has qualified a total of 7 girls for the state tournament, and 3 of those girls are 2x state qualifiers. 

Girls walking onto the mats for the parade of champions

This year the team had a great season with nine girls and at the regional tournament we had such a great experience. Three girls qualified while two girls were alternates. The energy in regionals was much more hype than at the state tournament. The tournament kicked off with Northeast Ohio’s traditional playing of the Cupid Shuffle. Matches started on mats 1-4, and the tournament was packed. The Northeast Ohio girls regional had the most wrestlers in attendance out of all four regions. 

After all of the semifinals and consolation semifinals had taken place, there was a fifteen minute break for the mats to be reorganized. There were three mats with 3-4 matches on mat 1, 1-2 matches on mat 2, and 5-6 matches on mat 3. All of the finalists lined up in the I-wing hallway and ran onto the mat for the traditional parade of champions while “We are the Champions” by Queen played and the lights were off with spotlights on the mats. 

The energy during finals matches was so high with so many wrestlers sitting on the floor next to mats to support one another. The girls wrestling community has such a great dynamic, and while many will go at it on the mat, off the mat there are so many friendships between different teams.

Girls from both Lutheran West and Mentor are lined up on the side of the mat to watch 170 lb first place match between Maddie Menchaca and Parris Willis

Overall Mentor finished the tournament with 3 qualifiers and 3 alternates. Mentor took 2nd place as a team at the tournament, qualifying for the regional dual tournament with the top eight teams from each region. The top two of these teams will advance to the state duals, and having more girls on the team for these tournaments would be a big advantage.

The Mentor Wrestling team arrived in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, March 9th for the inaugural OHSAA wrestling state tournament, sponsored by Rudis, an Ohio-based company that also is the leading wrestling company in the country. This tournament marked the 86th anniversary of the boys state tournament held alongside the first ever girls wrestling state tournament. Mentor took a total of 7 wrestlers to the state tournament and 4 state alternates.

On the first day of the tournament, Friday, March 10th, teams began the morning in the Schottenstein Center receiving packages with weigh-in cards and program booklets containing all of the brackets for the tournament. State tournament wrestling brackets are in the double-elimination, 16-man format for each weight class with the top four people from each of the four regions. After this, teams got time before wrestling started to eat, make their way back to hotels, and walk around the Schottenstein.

Mentor Girls Wrestling, 2nd place at regionals as a team

Walking around the Schottenstein before the tournament was a completely different experience than walking through the tunnel for the first match. The first walk through was just to get a feel about where we were allowed to be at certain times because the only way to get down to the mats for wrestlers and coaches was through the tunnel.

The tournament kicked off with D-3 wrestlers walking through the tunnel, followed by D-2, D-1, and then girls. While the boys divisions were wrestling, girls were in the warmup area preparing for their first matches. In the warmup area there were four mats and no warmup space. The room was filled and the energy was high. Larger teams with more qualifiers took up more space, and they contributed to lightning to mood a little bit by bringing speakers and playing fun, uplifting music.

Walking down the tunnel for the first match was so nerve wracking because as many people were down there as they could be and everyone was trying to get to the front of the tunnel to be able to hear when their bouts would be called. Lorelai Mergery was a part of the first female bout taking the mats of the Schottenstein Center. Two of Mentors wrestlers, Nick Blackburn and Jack DeBoe won their first matches of the tournament, qualifying them for day two. Antonio Shelley, Brian “Bear” Horgan, Lorelai Mergery, Campbell Splete, and Maddie Menchaca all lost their opening matches, meaning that they had to wrestle and win a second match on the first day to qualify for day two.

The Schottenstein Center, OHSAA wrestling mats

In between first and second matches there was not enough time to go back to the hotel or anything so most wrestlers hung out in the warmup area or sat in the stands to support other wrestlers. Shelley and Horgan won their second matches while Megery, Splete, and Menchaca had close losses, but were ultimately out of the tournament. The ability to wrestle on those mats was such a great experience and an unforgettable one.


Consolation round 2, championship quarterfinals, consolation quarterfinals, and championship semifinals for D-3, D-2, D-1, and girls took place on day two of the tournament. Horgan lost his second consolation match, while Shelley fought his way to the consolation quarterfinals and won, putting him on the podium. Blackburn and DeBoe made their way to the championship semifinals, losing this match, also putting them both in the running for 3rd. Watching our teammates on the guys side was so cool because throughout the season we haven’t really gotten to see them wrestle as much as in years past because this year having two fully separated teams, practices and matches between the two schedules overlapped.

Rudis, sponsor for the tournament, branded their apparel for the tournament with “The First” logos to represent the sanctioning of girls wrestling by the OHSAA. This apparel was sold, and Team Rudis athletes: Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Snyder, Sarah Hildebrandt, Amit Elor, Emily Shilson, Kennedy Blades, and Korina Blades, were brought in and recognized during the opening ceremony for the championship semifinals. Throughout the day, these athletes were hanging around the Rudis exposition for autographs and meet and greets. Watching the semi finals was such an exciting experience with nearly every seat filled. The energy was so high and the highest it had been all tournament with some of the most jaw dropping matches I had seen.

Consolation semifinals took place during the morning of March 12th, followed by 3rd place-8th place matches and finals matches. Antonio Shelley won his consolation semifinal match, which meant the three remaining Mentor wrestlers were in the running for 3rd place later that day. Blackburn finished the state tournament in 3rd place while Shelley and DeBoe finished in 4th. All three of the wrestlers will look to come back next year higher on the podium.

Ultimately, the first ever OHSAA girls state tournament was a great learning experience for the Mentor girls, and next year, Mentor wrestling will seek to have their first girl on the podium. Increasing the amount of girls on the team in Mentor would be a huge advantage as this year shows that anyone has the ability to make it this far if they work hard enough. Lorelai Mergery, Maddie Womack, Milo West-Ayala, and Dlorrah Harrold are all first year wrestlers who either qualified for the tournament or went as state alternates. 

Lorelai Mergery was apart of the first ever OHSAA girls state bout

All of them had a great first season, finding themselves on the podium at nearly every tournament. Two girls, Dlorrah Harrold and Maddie Menchaca had been DiBella’s players of the week throughout the season. Dlorrah was News Herald’s Player of the week and GCC athlete of the month while Maddie was News Herald’s Girls Wrestler of the Year. Both Mentor Wrestling coaches were given the title of Wrestling Coach of the year, Coach LaManna for the boys and Coach Carl for the girls.

This is truly a testament to the Mentor Wrestling program which is seeking more girls for the female side of the program to have a full varsity lineup for next season.