By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — Miami East entered the 81st Annual State Wrestling Tournament with high expectations for its four wrestlers and after the championship preliminaries those expectation continue as the Vikings won three of four matches.
“Going three-and-one is a positive,” said Miami East coach Mark Rose. “We would have liked to get Kaleb’s (Nickels) match, but we’ll keep wrestling and see how far it takes us.”
First, senior 120-pounder Graham Shore (50-1), who is no stranger to the state tournament with three state medals already in his resume, dominated in his opening bout by earning 23-8 technical fall victory over Storm Stanley (42-13) of Apple Creek Waynedale. Shore will wrestle Oak Harbor’s Cameron Dickman (39-7) in tomorrow’s quarterfinal round.
“Graham was very fast and slick on his feet,” Rose said. “He came out and took care of business and that’s what you need to do over here (at state). Graham looks good.”
Fellow senior and returning three-time state placer Alex Isbrandt (55-1) was equally impressive in his opening match against Brian Heller (31-12) of Nelsonville-York. Isbrandt, who finished runner-up a year ago at 132 pounds, pinned Heller in the time of 4:32 to set up a quarterfinal matchup against Jordan Keegan (31-3) of Milan Edison.
“Alex racked up some points and then pinned him (Heller),” said Rose. “He was up thirteen-to-nothing when he pinned him, so Alex is ready to go.”
The third Viking wrestler to reach the championship quarterfinal was junior 220-pounder Brenden Dalton (46-5). Dalton wrestled a tactically smart match and came away with a 5-3 win over Hunter Braithwaite (39-14) of West Jefferson. He advances to face Chris Kuhn (41-4) of Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic in tomorrow’s morning session.
“You never know how a kid will react in their first time at state, but Brenden wrestled well,” Rose praised. “Getting that first takedown was big. The score was close (5-3), but Brendan was never really in any trouble.”
The lone Viking wrestler to came up short in the opening bout at state was sophomore 126-pounder Kaleb Nickels (42-13), who dropped a close 7-5 decision to Swanton’s Trevor Schiller (35-7). Nickels fell into the consolation round against Michael Kucera (47-12) of Independence.
“That was a tough one,” said Rose of the narrow loss for Nickels. “It was five-to-five and we got taken down at the end. Those are the tough ones to lose, but he’ll come back and keep wrestling.”
Nickels defeated Kucera 9-6 to advance to Friday’s action.
Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. Friday morning.
Covington also sent four wrestlers to the state meet, but only Kellan Anderson was able to come out on the winning end in the preliminary round.
And the Buccaneer freshman 106-pounder was impressive in recording a 1:20 pin of Josh Proper of Delaware Christian (30-9). Anderson, who is now 47-7 in the season, will face Brett Szuhay (40-3) of Mantua Crestwood in tomorrow’s quarterfinal round.
“Kellan did a great job of coming out fast and getting a nice takedown early,” said Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst. “When Kellan was riding on top we noticed he (Proper) was open for the cradle. We gave Kellan a hand signal and he locked him up and pinned him.”
The Buccaneers lost a heartbreaker at 113 pounds as Cael Vanderhorst (48-6) dropped a 2-1 decision to Brayden Reynolds (37-8) of Barnesville) in the second tiebreaker. He dropped into the consolation rounds against Kyle Keenan (36-12) of Lima South Range.
Vanderhorst won a 3-0 decision over Keenan to stay alive.
“Yeah, that was a tough one,” said Vanderhorst of his son’s defeat. “The kid (Reynolds) was awarded an escape at the end, but we thought the time ran out. We won’t know until we look at the video. Either way, that was tough because it was so close.”
Buccaneer junior 152-pounder Keringten Martin (42-10) also dropped a close match to two-time state placer Chase Moore (49-2) of Swanton by the score of 3-1. Martin also dropped into the consolation bracket against Conor Becker (48-5) of Galion Northmor.
“That was case where both wrestlers defended very well on their feet and we just couldn’t break through his (Moore’s) defense,” Vanderhorst said. “He (Moore) was able to get the one takedown on us and that was the difference.”
Martin lost an 8-5 decision to Becker to end his season.
Sophomore 195-pounder Gage Kerrigan (23-6) ran into a buzzsaw in Dylan Hinton (46-2) of Bloomdale Elmwood, who pinned the Buccaneer wrestler in 1:02. Kerrigan falls to the consolation bracket against Jacob Campbell (47-4) of Sullivan Black River.
“You could see the difference in maturity,” said Vanderhorst. “Gage is undersized for this weight and he’s wrestling guys who are gutting down to one-ninety-five. But this is great experience for him because he’ll be able to use it as he grows and develops.”
Kerrigan was pinned in 2:44 by Campbell to end his season.
Versailles saw all three of its wrestlers come up short in the preliminary round on Thursday.
At 120 pounds, Jacob Poling (43-12) was pinned by Akron Manchester’s Jake White (31-6) in 3:14 and was set to face Skylar Davis (37-9) of Fredericktown in the first round of consolations.
Poling decisoned Davis 6-1 to stay alive.
Preston Platfoot fell to Niko Chilson (46-6) of Rootstown via pin in 1:23 at 132 pounds and dropped into the consolation round against Oak Harbor’s Tad Jensen (35-9).
Platfoot won a 3-1 decision over Jensen to stay alive.
At heavyweight, Jeffrey Ware (45-10) dropped a razor-thin 4-3 decision to Joe Warren (40-9) of Smithville. He dropped into the consolation bracket against Josh Robinson (31-10) of Shadyside.
Ware won a 4-3 decision to stay alive.