By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — Covington senior Lance Miller felt a deep hurt in the pit of his stomach after a mentally draining and heartbreaking 1-0 defeat in his 160 pound state championship match to James Limongi of Genoa Area on Saturday.
But when the dust settles and Miller has a chance to be alone with his thoughts, he will eventually realize the magnitude of what he accomplished in the final tournament of his high school career.
“It sucks,” said a very dejected Buccaneer wrestler after his final match. “I was so close and came up short. I know in some time I’ll look back at what I was able to do and be proud, but right now this sucks.”
What Miller will realize when he eventually can review his weekend at state is he wrestled the tournament of his life on the biggest stage of his life. He’ll also realize he is right in the mix with the best high school wrestlers in the state of Ohio.
“We’re proud of him,” said Covington coach Tom Barbee. “He really started to come on after the Troy Invitational and had a great run. We came up a little short tonight and I know he’s disappointed, but he should be proud of himself.”
Since the Troy Invitational Miller has become a takedown machine. But on Saturday, Limongi was able to ward off each shot attempted by Miller.
“He wouldn’t tie up with me and I could never find a rhythm,” Miller explained. “It threw me off.”
The match was scoreless after one and Limongi chosen the bottom position to start the second. The Buccaneer senior immediately surrendered the escape so he could take the match back to his feet in hopes of finding his groove for a takedown.
But once again, every time Miller shot in, Limongi was able to avoid trouble as the match went into the third period with Lance down 1-0.
“That was their strategy to stay away from Lance on their feet and keep the match close into the third period,” explained Covington assistant coach Eric Vanderhorst.
Miller chose bottom to start the third and was close to tying the score on a grabby roll just 15 seconds into the frame. But as Miller cleared the grasp of Limongi he was accurately ruled out of bounds.
From there Miller continued trying to escape by Limongi was unbelievably sound from the top position.
“He’s a beast on top,” Miller said. “I was close to getting out a couple of times, but just couldn’t get away.”
Miller’s final attempt to turn the tables came in the final 20 seconds as he attempted a switch.
And he came very close to getting the reversal, but Limongi once again was able to hold on to Miller’s leg as the clock expired.
“I really wanted this match,” Miller said. “It sucks to lose 1-0.”
Still, it was a memorable and historic weekend for Lance Miller and Buccaneer wrestling as he became the 11th wrestler in Covington history to finish on the podium and just the fourth wrestler to reach the state championship match – the others being Logan Brown, Andrew Dehart and Jarred Ganger.
And in time he’ll realize just how special that is.