By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — First-year Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst couldn’t be more excited heading into the state tournament with four wrestlers competing off a young team that has exceeded expectations.
Freshman Kellan Anderson (106) and Cael Vanderhorst (113), junior Keringten Martin (152) and sophomore Gage Kerrigan (195) all will be action when the Division III state tournament gets underway Thursday afternoon at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.
“Keringten (Martin) was the only one of our nine wrestlers at district that had been to district before,” Vanderhorst said. “So, we have three kids going to state that had never been to district before. So, it is exciting.”
Anderson, 46-7, will wrestle Delaware Christian freshman Josh Proper, 30-9, in the opening round.
“I just looked at the brackets, but I am not really focused on that,” Anderson said. “I am focused on my wrestling. State was always one of my goals. It felt good when I made it to state.”
Anderson was in one of the toughest districts in his weight class, but was confident.
“I felt pretty good (when he won his semifinal match at district) when I realized I made it to state. State was always one of my goals. And Cael (Vanderhorst) have pushed each other all year in the wrestling room and made each other better.”
Eric Vanderhorst is not surprised Anderson made it to state.
“You could definitely see that in him from the first day,” Vanderhorst said. “But, you look at that weight class. I think eight of the top 16 wrestlers were in our district, so we weren’t sure how things were going to shake out. But, he had a great tournament.”
Cael Vanderhorst is the son of Eric and wrestling has always been a big part of their lives.
“It (state) has always been special for my dad and my uncles,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “To be able to experience this with my dad is going to be really special. When I won my semifinal match (at district), my mom (Wendy) came down and gave me a hug and was crying.”
His dad’s congratulations had to wait.
“Unfortunately, Kellan (Anderson) was wrestling right after that and I had to go over to his match,” Eric Vanderhorst said. “So, it was about 15 minutes before I could give him a big hug and congratulate him. It will be (a special weekend).”
Vanderhorst, 48-5, will wrestle Brayden Reynolds of Barnesville, 36-8.
“I just kind of glanced at the brackets,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “You have to just focus on wrestling. Kellan and I have helped each other and pushed each other all year. I think I will probably be pretty nervous, but it definitely helps to have three teammates over there with me.”
Martin is the one wrestler who has some experience with the state environment.
“He was over there last year with Lance (Miller) as his drill partner and got to experience that,” Eric Vanderhorst said. “I think that is really going to help him. There is no question state was a big goal for him this year. And he has done a great job all year.”
Martin, 42-9, will wrestle two-time state placer Chase Moore of Swanton, 48-2.
“I will probably be a little nervous (walking out into the arena), but I just need to focus on my wrestling,” Martin said. “I didn’t even really look at it (who he is wrestling). I glanced at the brackets, but I just have to go out and wrestle my best.”
He realized a big goal when he made it to state.
“Definitely, getting to state is something I have always wanted,” Martin said. “When I won the match (to lock up a state berth), just looking up into the crowd and seeing my family, that was amazing. Gage (Kerrigan) and I have wrestled each other all year (in practice). That is going to help having him over there.”
Kerrigan didn’t see state happening at the beginning of the year.
“I didn’t think I would make it to state because I had a shoulder injury,” Kerrigan said. “With therapy and rehab I was able to work through it and wrestle the second half of the season. I still wasn’t expecting to make it to state. After I lost in the semifinals, I was disappointed, but I was confident and I was able to win the match to get to state. I wanted to finish up with a win (in the third place match), but it didn’t work out.”
Eric Vanderhorst has been impressed by Kerrigan.
“He had a football injury, so we took it easy,” Vanderhorst said. “He missed a lot of matches, but he was able to come through at the end of the season.”
Kerrigan, 23-5, will wrestle Dylan Hinton of Bloomdale Elmwood, 45-2.
“I will probably be a little nervous,” Kerrigan said. “The guy I wrestle is good, but I am not scared. I just want to wrestle my best Keringten (Martin) and I wrestle each other all the time in practice. It will be good to have him over there.”
Vanderhorst said there is one key for all four.
“We talk all the time about worrying about the things you can control,” he said. “To get four kids to state off a team so young. It is great for the other kids on the team to see.”
As the excitement continues for one more week.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.