By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — Covington 160-pound senior Lance Miller will face the projected state champion in the quarterfinals today, while Lehman Catholic 189-pound senior Wyatt Long drew that fate in his opening match at Division III state wrestling tournament at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.
Miller, 44-2, cruised to a 10-2 win over Bailey Blair of Smithville, 39-7 in the opening round.
He now faces Josh Doherty of West Jefferson, 47-2 and the state runnerup last year, who pinned Jonah Brown of Edgerton in 1:49 in the opening round.
Quarterfinals are scheduled to start at 10 a.m.
“That’s right,” Miller said about having to wrestle Doherty sometime. “I will getting him first thing in the morning, so we will see what happens.”
Miller dominated Blair from the start Friday — after coming over here two years ago and losing two matches.
“It feels good to get that first win,” Miller said. “I was a lot more prepared than two years ago. Understanding what it is going to be like, being prepared for the atmosphere. I just needed to come out and wrestle with confidence.”
And Miller never let up until the third period.
“I let him up a few times once I had the win,” Miller said. “I was confident from the start.”
Covington coach Tom Barbee was pleased with Miller.
“We are real pleased with him,” Barbee said. “He did a good job of focusing on his match. “He wrestled smart and didn’t get himself into any trouble positions,” Barbee said. “That’s what we’ve got to do over here.”
After Long, 43-9, lost to projected state champion Gaige Willis of Andover Pymatung Valley, 43-0 6-1 in his opening match, it was simply a matter of relaxing.
“He was receiving messages all day telling him to relax,” Lehman coach Cam Haller said.
Trailing Nathan Price of Galion Northmor 2-0 after the first period of his consolation match, Long wasn’t ready to go home.
Price chose down to start the second period and it was all Long after that in a 17-2 win by tech fall.
“I didn’t want to go home,” Long said. “I wanted to come back tomorrow (Friday). I just had to relax and wrestle my match.”
Haller was happy when Price chose down.
“That is the right decision,” Haller said. “But, I was happy to see Wyatt (Long) on top.”
Long recorded four nearfalls in the period to go up 12-2 and added two more in the third period to finish off the victory by tech fall.
“It feels great to get a win here, ” Long said. “Somebody, told me a long time ago to go out and wrestle with confidence and it always works.”
In the match against Willis, Long wouldn’t give in despite the loss.
“I didn’t wrestle a bad match,” he said. “He was the projected state champion and he just rode me. He wanted to pin me and I wasn’t going to let that happen. There is nothing I hate more than being pinned.”
Now, Long will wrestle the loser of the match between John Kelbly, 35-2 of Smithville and Dalton Hoover, 29-1, of Martins Ferry Friday morning. A win would guarantee him a spot on the podium.
“It is just amazing to see him go from being given no chance at district to where he is now,” Haller said. “There is nothing but smiles in the Lehman camp.”
“One win from placing and I want to do it,” he said. “This is amazing to be where I am.”
And for Miller and Long both, there was plenty to smile about Thursday.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.
And he did his best to give him a battle, losing just 6-1 to the wrestler that was state runnerup last year.