By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — Alex Isbrandt, a junior wrestler at Miami East High School, saw a familiar face across the mat as he stood during the Parade of Champions and again when he took to the big stage for his championship match at 132 pounds.
That face was Alex Rhine of Mechanicsburg, a wrestler he faced three previous times throughout the year – including in the sectional semifinal two weeks ago.
“I’ve wrestled him three times already this year, so we know each other very well,” said Isbrandt after he won his semifinal match Friday night. “He beat me the first time and then I beat him in the second match. We wrestled again at sectionals and he won that one (9-3), so we keep taking turns beating each other. Hopefully it’s my turn.”
And the fourth time around turned into a barn burner as both wrestlers took advantage of their knowledge of the other.
Rhine came out on fire, however as he picked up three first period takedowns for a 6-2 lead after one.
But Isbrandt wasn’t deterred and battled back to tie the score at 6-6 midway through the third period and appeared to have a match-sealing takedown on the edge with around 30 seconds left.
Unfortunately the takedown attempt was ruled out of bounds and the two wrestlers went into sudden victory knotted at 6-6.
And Rhine was the one who was able to secure the winning takedown in the extra session.
“Those two know each other so well,” said Miami East coach Mark Rose. “It was a good match, but obviously we’re disappointed in the result.”
Which makes it more painful is the fact that Isbrandt came within a whisker of winning a state championship.
“We thought he had the takedown there in the third period, but they (the officials) said Alex’s knee came down out of bounds before Rhine fell to his butt. It’s a judgement call and that happens in wrestling.”
Still, it was a match many at the Schott will remember for a long time and Isbrandt can use as fuel for next year.
“He’ll just come back and work that much harder,” Rose explained. “That’s the type of kid he is.”
Shore takes third
Graham Shore also had a memorable tournament by earning his third state medal with a third place finish at 120 pounds. Shore, a junior, placed third last season at 113 pounds and seventh at 106 pounds as a freshman.
Entering the tournament with a 49-1 record, Shore was hoping for a rematch with Tommy Hoskins of Legacy Christian Academy in the championship match on Saturday. Hoskins handed Shore his lone defeat on a narrow 3-2 decision in the district final last weekend at Troy.
Unfortunately Shore never received the opportunity to avenge that defeat as he came up short in 4-2 quarterfinal loss to Julian Sanchez of Genoa Area Friday morning.
With little time to put the adversity behind him, Shore dominated Jakob Neer of Galion Nothmor 21-6 in his first consolation match and then followed with a 20-4 win over Kalib Patterson of Ridgedale.
He returned to the Saturday morning session and continued his dominance with a 7-2 victory over Cole Mattin of Delta to set up a consolation finals match against Dalton Leightner of Roostown.
And like he had done throughout the tournament, Shore was relentless from the opening whistle, recording a quick takedown and building a 9-1 lead into the third period.
From there Shore used the clock to his advantage and held off his scrappy opponent for the 9-1 win.
“Graham wrestled very well this weekend,” Rose said. “We just didn’t get that one break Friday morning or we would have seen him in the finals. But you know Graham, he’ll come back even stronger in the future.”
Both Shore and Isbrandt have already cemented a legacy at Miami East High School and have another year to reach the mountaintop of high school wrestling.