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After the 2016 season ended in frustration for Nordonia senior wrestling Anthony Perrine, he ended the 2017 season in jubliation.
Perrine went out and won the Division I 195-pound title at the 80th Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament March 11 at Value City Arena in Columbus.
Perrine left no doubts in the championship match, as he pinned Lakewood St. Edward's Dakota Howard in 2:33 to claim the title. He became the 14th state champion in Nordonia history and first since Ryan Lange won at 160 pounds in 1999.
"I think it just proves that you don't need to go to a private school to get your state championship," Perrine said. "If you work hard enough, you can win it anywhere."
Nordonia head coach Beau Polcen said the championship was huge for both Perrine and the future of the Knights' program.
"I can't really put words to this," Polcen said. "That was what Anthony had been working for since he started with youth wrestling. Anthony deserves it. He has worked so hard to get here.
Perrine wasn't afraid to use a bit of Nordonia history to help his chances. The senior wore the same singlet worn by assistant coach Jason Walters during his time with Nordonia in the 1980s.
No matter what he was wearing, Perrine made it clear he was all business.
In his opening-round match March 9, Perrine scored a dominant 15-5 win over Mount Vernon's Aston Spurgeon.
"I've got thee more to go," Perrine said after the win. "I worked on my offense a lot this year. I could have sat on a 6-1 lead. [Walters has been] pushing me a lot this year to stay on the attack. If you put up more points, you don't have to worry about close matches."
Perrine stayed on the attack March 10. In the quarterfinals, Perrine scored a 10-4 decision win over Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller's Brett Bryant.
Then in the evening session, Perrine faced Delaware Hayes' Max Peters in his semifinal match. It was a rematch of the final at the Top Gun Tournament in January, which Peters won.
Perrine was aided by a pair of penalty points, but got the lone takedown in the match as he scored a 5-3 win to become the first Knight to reach the state finals since Lenny Trusnik in 2004.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Perrine said after the semifinal. "We've been talking about it all year. I lost to him at Top Gun and we said, 'He got that match. He can have that match all day. We're going to get the one that counts.'
"It's great being in the conversation [with past state champs]. I've met a couple of them. It takes a lot. They saw what I've been doing and it's time to finish it off."
As he prepared to face Howard in the final, Perrine said the strategy was simple.
"He was pretty dang good on his feet," Perrine said. "I wanted to stay on offense and use that as my defense."
Perrine admitted the title match was "nuts."
Perrine was able to score the first two takedowns of the match, but then gave up a takedown himself before escaping to make it 5-4 after one period.
Howard escaped from the down position to start the second period and shot on Perrine. However, Perrine flipped over the top and hit Howard with a double-leg takedown.
Perrine said he was able to crank on Howard's head and caught the Eagles' junior in a reverse cradle.
"I kept looking down at my fingers, wondering how much grip I had left," Perrine said.
Howard was in the cradle for about 15 seconds before the referee called the pin at 2:33. Perrine leapt into Walters' arms and then leapt into the stands and the arms of his father, Paul Perrine, after the match.
Perrine will graduate this spring and has committed to wrestle at Gardner-Webb University, an NCAA Division I program located in Boiling Springs, N.C.