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The Ohler Wrestling Family Tradition

Wrestling is all in the family for fourth-year Liberty coach Joe Zaccagnini—that is, in the Ohler family and by extension, his Lions’ program.

Zaccagnini coached Ryan Ohler to a 145-pound Class 2A-1A state title as a senior in 2022, the same year he welcomed then-113-pound freshman Dylan Ohler into the Lions’ wrestling room.

Ryan has since graduated, Dylan is a 144-pound junior, and their sister, Aubrey, is a 105-pound freshman at Liberty.

“Every year I’ve had an Ohler in the room,” Zaccagnini said. “It’s been the same thing every year I have been the head coach at Liberty.”

Additionally, Ryan and the children’s parents and grandparents are mainstays for the Lions.

“Ryan is still coming to support his siblings. Their mother, April, is our team mom and has been there for more than five years,” Zaccagnini said. “Their Dad, Rich, is always looking into our next competition and opponents. Their grandparents are always there to cheer them all on. It’s been great to have them all involved in the program and for so long of a time.”

On top of that, the Ohlers are winners on the mat, as evidenced on Friday by the performances of Aubrey and Dylan during the Carroll County Tournament at Westminster.

Aubrey earned her first county title on pins in 50 seconds and in 3:23, the latter against Winters Mill sophomore Cari Ireland in the title bout as she improved her overall record on the year to 18-4.

Dylan had a more difficult time earning his third straight county title, holding off South Carroll junior Angelo Marchany, 3-2, to raise his record on the season to 32-5. Liberty had a third champion in 190-pound sophomore Kevin Kern, whose, 6-5, decision over Francis Scott Key junior Adam Knox avenged an earlier, 9-7, overtime loss and raised his record on the year to 35-5.

“All of the hard work in the rooms has finally paid off, so this feels pretty good, especially being a freshman,” said Aubrey, whose bout happened about 20 minutes prior to Dylan’s. “I have two older brothers, Ryan and Dylan, and Ryan was a state champion. Ryan’s up in the stands somewhere watching us. Dylan’s doing pretty good, and his match is coming up.”

Dylan faced Marchany in a rematch of last year’s final, which he also won by decision, although by a wider margin.

“I wrestled him in the finals last year and beat him like, 6-0, so this was my second county title against him, and I knew he would come at me a lot harder,” said Dylan, who countered a takedown in the bout’s final seconds to win. “I just continued to do what I practiced against him, winning scrambles when I’m in an awkward position with a short amount of time left in the match.”

Dylan was first in his region and fourth at the Class 2A-1A state tournament as a freshman, and second at regions as a sophomore. Dylan admits that he was more inspired after having watched Aubrey wrestle.

“I saw my sister win, but then, I knew she was going to do well,” Dylan said. “That gave me all of the motivation I needed to go out there and get the job done.”

Zaccagnini sees similarities between how Ryan helped Dylan, and in how Dylan is assisting Aubrey.

“When Ryan was a senior and Dylan was a freshman, it was a really cool thing to have two brothers on the team wrestling at the same time. They were both always cheering each other on and even making sure the other was working hard in the room,” Zaccagnini said. “Ryan was always taking Dylan under his wing and coaching him from the sidelines. But now we see those roles reversed with Dylan being the older brother and Aubrey coming in as a wrestler this year. You can really tell that this is a wrestling family.”

Ryan was a four-time county finalist, winning once, and placed fifth, third and first at regions before winning states as a senior. Ryan finished at 39-2 following a 9-7 state title bout victory over then-sophomore Gavin Solito of Stephen Decatur.

“Dylan got the job done, but he’ll wrestle Marchany in the regions again, so I want to see him open up more and score more. Dylan and I are similar in that we’re more inclined to set things up more,” Ryan said. “Aubrey lets it fly a lot more than Dylan and I do. She just goes out there, isn’t afraid to make mistakes and she attacks constantly. and attacks.”

Can Aubrey win states as a freshman?

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Ryan said. “I believe that 100 percent.”

Zaccagnini agrees.

“Aubrey already has won two tournaments this year and just got her first county title. Her young career is starting off great. I feel like it will be a great loss to our program when Aubrey graduates in a few years. It was cool to have her and Dylan win in the same year and for Dylan to become a three-time champ,” Zaccagnini said. “What I would really love to see is both Aubrey and Dylan to have their names added to the list of state champions that we have hanging up in the wrestling room. It would be a cool thing to have all three Ohler siblings forever immortalized in the room.”

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