By Kyle Shaner
VERSAILLES – Two years after competing against each other in the Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling dual team tournament, Versailles and Apple Creek Waynedale will have a rematch on Sunday.
Though the teams obviously have changed over the past two years, Versailles wrestling coach A.J. Bey said there still will be a lot of familiarity between Versailles and Waynedale when they take the mat at 11 a.m. Sunday at The Ohio State University’s St. John Arena in Columbus.
“We kind of know how they are,” the Tiger coach said. “They’re a lot like us – pretty scrappy and going to be in your face and at you all the time.”
This is the third time Versailles has qualified for the state wrestling dual team tournament in the event’s six-year history. The Tigers enter this year’s tournament seeded fourth out of the eight teams in the Division III bracket.
The No. 4 seed matches the seeding Versailles had entering the inaugural tournament in 2013 when the Tigers beat Upper Sandusky in the quarterfinals before losing to top seeded Delta in the semifinals.
Two years ago Versailles was ranked sixth and lost its quarterfinal match 36-28 to third seeded Waynedale.
Versailles has five wrestlers back from that 2016 state tournament team – seniors Preston Platfoot, Jeffery Ware and Kyle Wuebker plus juniors Tyler Gigandet and Jacob Poling.
Having experience competing at the state’s highest level has given those Tigers some confidence entering this week’s competition.
“I do feel confident,” Ware said. “I’ve trained hard. I’m ready for big moments like these. It’s going to be sweet going to Ohio State and seeing what we’re made of.”
Platfoot, Ware and Wuebker said they feel more responsibility compared to their sophomore year when they competed at state. They’re now the veterans and are ready to lead their younger teammates.
“If we’re confident that we can win, it rubs off on them,” Wuebker said.
Though they feel prepared for the competition, Wuebker said there still are nerves preparing to compete on the premier stage in the state.
“You still get all the butterflies,” the Versailles senior said. “You’re going out there to represent Versailles, Ohio. All of the best of the best are there in D-III so you’ve got to show up and show them what you’re made of.”
The winner of the match between Versailles and Waynedale will advance to face either top ranked Genoa Area or eighth seeded Bethel-Tate in the semifinals. The bottom half of the bracket includes second seeded Massillon Tuslaw, third seeded Swanton, sixth seeded Nelsonville-York and seventh seeded Galion Northmor.
“I feel like we can do really good,” Platfoot said. “We’ve worked really hard this year to get to where we are and to even make it. A lot of people might not know about us, but I think we can go in there place up really high.”
Being in the four-five matchup, Coach Bey expects a really tight match in the quarterfinals. The Tigers certainly are capable of winning and contending in the tournament, he said.
“We’re just going to throw them out there and see what happens,” Bey said. “With this team I think we can be in the finals or … you know every team down there is going to be tough. But we’re going to take one team at a time and see what happens.”
While wrestling team is an individual sport with all the competitors going one-on-one against their opponents, the dual team tournament requires athletes to rely on their teammates to advance. The Tigers know that and are hoping for strong performances from all their athletes in Columbus.
“We’ve got 14 guys on the team,” Ware said. “We need 14 guys to show up and wrestle good, and I feel like we can make some noise up there.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.