Sports Talk: Warren wrestler’s comeback impressive

Right now, Brandon Pahl is the student-athlete of the hour on the Warren campus.

Probably bigger even than Evan French, Reece Patton, and Michael Hall of the Blane Maddox-coached Warriors basketball team, which is scheduled to play top-seeded Logan Elm in a district final at the Ohio University Convocation Center this Saturday night..

After all, last Saturday night in Columbus, the 16-year-old Pahl (he’ll be 17 in May) stood on the state wrestling tournament podium as an All-Ohio fourth placer in the 285-pound weight class.

Warren had not had a state placer since 1997, the year Pahl was born. He also became the school’s first All-State wrestling heavyweight.

As distinguished as all-state is, what’s more impressive is the wrestling journey Pahl (51-8) took to be honored. If anything, the Warren junior serves as an inspiration to every prep athlete in any sport facing adversity and rallying against all odds.

Pahl had the heart and grit to do this. He just wouldn’t be beat at crunch time.

“It’s good to come from out of nowhere and shocking everybody,” said Warren head wrestling coach/father Mike Pahl.

Brandon Pahl’s All-Ohio trip was a memorable one, but it could have ended (without all-state status)…well, almost on the first day of state competition.

To set the stage for state, the younger Pahl had to qualify for the event at the Division II Wilmington district, and he did as a fourth placer. He also did so, despite losing twice to Gavin Peacock of Ross.

Only the top 4 at district get to advance and compete inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University.

Getting to state in Columbus is quite an honor but standing on the podium as one of the top 8 in Ohio in your D2 weight division at the finish is obviously better – and difficult to achieve, especially as a fourth-placer at district.

Mind you, at state, it’s a double-elimination event, and you don’t want to lose your first bout.

A week ago, Brandon Pahl’s opening-round opponent was Billy Miller of Perry, an Alliance district champion.

“Brandon got the worst draw,” Mike Pahl said. “This kid (Miller) won it all last year, and is ranked third in the nation.”

Miller was also undefeated on the mat this winter.

What’s that old sports cliche, “if you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”

Well, the younger Pahl not only got beat by the best but also flattened by him in the first period at the 1:46 mark. It was only the second time this season that he’d been pinned by an opponent.

“I think Brandon was nervous and a little intimidated by him,” Mike Pahl said.

Now, Brandon Pahl was in a hole and in a do-or-die situation in his next match in the consolation round that evening. Win, and he still has a pulse in the tourney. But lose, and it’s 0-2 and back to Vincent in Washington County.

Pahl stayed alive by defeating Licking Valley’s Jaqui Vanmeter, 7-1, in overtime.

Not only that, but he was now one win away from finishing in the top 8 and earning all-state.

On Friday, Pahl accomplished that when he pinned Kostas Parrish of Hunting Valley University School at the 4:46 mark of the third period.

Later that evening, he decisioned Joshua Kempf of River View 2-1 in overtime.

“Brandon can now finish as high as third and as low as sixth at state,” Mike Pahl said. “I’m so overjoyed.”

Next up on Saturday for the younger Pahl was a familiar opponent and nemesis – Sheridan junior Evan Loughman. Three times during the 2013-14 wrestling campaign he’d lost to the Panther grappler, twice on one-point decisions and once on a mat-slapper.

Brandon Pahl was determined not to lose a fourth time, and he didn’t as he claimed a 10-4 decision.

“Brandon wrestled like he was possessed,” Mike Pahl said. “He wanted (Loughman) so bad.”

If you’re counting, that’s four straight state mat wins since losing to Miller, who ended up being state champion again.

Pahl finished fourth when he dropped a 3-0 decision to Franklin’s Chase Henderson.

“I think Brandon was so worn out from wrestling Loughman,” Mike Pahl said. “He was only down 1-0 late when he tried a move on (Henderson).”

Turns out, Brandon Pahl and Henderson were the only two D2 heavyweight wrestlers (out of 16) at state to lose their opening bout and come back to earn All-Ohio status.

Needless to say, the Pahl family was elated with their son’s success in central Ohio.

So, how did they all celebrate?

“With that winter storm coming, we came straight home,” Mike Pahl said.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times’s sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at