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by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor
Two years ago, Michael Coleman was a work in progress when it came to his performance on the mat.
Nowadays, that work in progress is now poised to become Hudson High School's first state wrestling champion.
Coleman, a senior, took a first crucial step toward doing just that by earning a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Massillon Perry's Tony Dailey to win the 160-pound district title Feb. 22 at Mentor High School.
By the way, Dailey, who beat Coleman earlier in the season, was ranked No. 1 in Ohio at 160 pounds.
As a result of Coleman's performance, he earned a ticket to the Division I state meet, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 27 and 28 and March 1 at Value City Arena in Columbus. The action is set to begin Feb. 27 at 5:40 p.m.
Coleman (34-2) is scheduled to wrestle Springboro's Joe Kylin in the opening round.
"It was a confidence boost," Coleman said. "It proves that I can beat pretty much anyone."
The marquee matchup lived up to its billing.
Coleman scored a takedown to take a 2-0 lead before Dailey made it 2-1 when he got an escape in the first period.
Dailey took the down position to begin the second period and got an escape to tie the match. The match remained tied and Coleman took the down position to begin the third period and earned an escape to take a 3-2 lead.
Coleman was issued a stalling warning with 45 seconds left in the match.
Unfortunately for Coleman, that would not be the first time.
He was called for stalling again with 2 seconds left, which gave Dailey a free point that would deadlock the match.
But Coleman wasn't deterred.
He scored a double-leg takedown 20 seconds into overtime to win.
"In overtime, Michael really had to be aggressive," Explorers' head coach Joe Caniglia said. "It was great to see him beat somebody of that caliber. At the state meet, if you're ranked one, two, three or even one, two, three, four or five, anybody has a chance to win the state title any given day."
Prior to his showdown with Dailey, Coleman had little trouble with his previous opponents.
He earned a first-round pin in his first match (1:54), a 10-0 major decision in his second match and a pin (4:23) in the semifinals.
Coleman, who finished fourth at the state meet last year, is ready to return to Columbus.
"There's always going to be nerves," he said. "This is the second time around and I know what to expect since I've done it once before. I'm pretty excited."
Caniglia doesn't believe he can do much for his pupil prior to the state meet. His main priority is to keep Coleman healthy.
"We just want to have good workouts," Caniglia said. "At this stage, it's all mental."
If Coleman is going to win a state title, he will have to do it alone.
Hudson's other six wrestlers saw their season end in Mentor.
Chris Motter (132), Matt Slater (220) and Dylan Carlson (heavyweight) each won a match for the Explorers. Also participating for Hudson were Ben Boysel (126), Billy Buehl (138) and Ben Krizman (182).
But those guys can use Coleman as motivation, according to Caniglia.
"When Michael was a freshman, he was 2-2 at districts," he said. "He also went 2-2 at districts as a sophomore. He was willing to make that jump and leave his comfort zone. The other guys have the ability to do that."
The Explorers finished 20th out of 44 teams with 35 points.
Massillon Perry easily won the team competition with 265 points and Uniontown Lake (125.5) and Madison (81.5) finished second and third, respectively.
Coleman plans to enjoy his trip to Columbus. But he will go there with one goal and one goal only.
"I want to be state champion," he said.