By Rob Kiser
VERSAILLES — Covington wrestling coach Eric Vanderhorst proved to be prophetic.
After his Covington team lost to Versailles 47-21 in one semifinal, Vanderhorst mentioned the upcoming regional championship match in the Division III state team duals between the Tigers and Miami East.
“That should be a great match with those two teams,” Vanderhorst said with a smile.
That it was.
The two teams went toe-to-toe — with several roller coaster like momentum swings — and the match was tied at 30 through 195 pounds. Versailles got a decision from Gage DeHart (220) and a forfeit from Jeffrey Ware (285) to win 39-30 and advance to Columbus for the third time in five years.
The state duals will be held on Feb. 11 at St. John Arena, beginning with the quarterfinals.
“I knew this was going to be a tough match,” Versailles AJ Bey said. “You don’t understand everything we did to get ready for this match. We were texting back and forth the last three or four days different moves we could make with the lineup and different scenarios — it may not have been exactly how we figured it was going to come out, but it was pretty close.”
Miami East coach Mark Rose also knew it would be a close match.
“I am sure it was entertaining to watch,” he said. “A couple of matches could have went different ways. I am so proud of these kids. We came in here banged up and they really battled.”
Olivia Shore (106) started things off for Miami East with a 6-1 decision.
Then, came the first big momentum swing.
Versailles reeled off three straight pins.
Trevor Huber (113) had a pin in 49 seconds, Jacob Poling (120) erased a 7-3 deficit in the third period with a pin in 4:54 and Nick Monnier (126) had a pin in 1:09 to give Versailles an 18-3 lead.
“That was a huge win by Jacob (Poling),” Bey said. “We knew there were going to be matches like that. We talked to the kids at the beginning of the year about every wrestler mattering. Nick (Monnier) was varsity last year and got bumped down this year. He wanted to be varsity at a different weight and I told him no, I think there are times you are going to be able to help us where you are — tonight was a great example of that.”
Then East’s “Muderers Row” took the mat, with Graham Shore (132), Alex Isbrandt (138) and Zane Strubler (145) all winning by pin.
“Those guys know how to wrestle,” Rose said. “And we needed that if we were going to win.”
Bey was prepared for that run.
“Those guys (the Miami East trio) are hammers,” Bey said. “It is going to be fun to watch them at the individual state tournament.”
Travis Ferguson (152) and Michael Miller (160) won by decision to give East a 27-18 lead, but Versailles’ Tyler Gigandet (170) answered with a pin to cut the deficit to 27-24.
East’s Matthew Welker (182) won a 5-2 decision and Versailles’ Isaac Gilmore (195) won by forfeit to make it 30-30.
With Versailles’ Ware having a forfeit at 285, it meant Miami East needed a pin at 220 for the match to finish in a tie.
But, Versailles’ DeHart got a takedown with 15 seconds left for a 2-0 win to lock up the victory.
“It can be (tough when you go out there and know if you don’t get pinned the team wins),” Bey said. “But, we had confidence in Gage (DeHart). He did a great job.”
Miami East, Indian Lake 33
Miami East cruised to the semifinal win.
Olivia Shore (106), Garrett Kowalak (113), Kaleb Nickels (120), Alex Isbrandt (138), Zane Strubler (145) and Jarret Winner (170) all won by pin, while Graham Shore (126) and Brenden Dalton (285) won by forfeit.
Versailles 47, Covington 21
Covington found itself in a tough matchup.
“Versailles is a great team,” Vanderhorst said. “I thought our kids really wrestled hard. The dual took 90 minutes, which shows we had a lot of matches that went the full 60 minutes. I felt like our kids really battled.”
For Versailles, Jacob Poling (120), Nick Monnier (132), Kyle Wuebker (145), Isaac Grilliot (182), Gage DeHart (195) and Jeffrey Ware (285) all won by pin.
Tyler Gigandet (170) won by tech fall and Cael Bey (126) and Preston Platfoot (138) won by decision.
For Covington, Kellan Anderson (106) and Gage Kerrigan (220) both won by pin.
Cael Vanderhorst (113), Trentin Alexander (152) and Keringten Martin (160) all won by decision.
Now, Versailles moves on to the Elite Eight.
“We love the team duals because it requires you to be strong all the way through,” Bey said. “We talk about that all the time. They are all quality wrestlers. And you never know which 14 it is going to take.”
And in the end, it took all of that as Versailles advanced in a regional final that went to the wire.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.