By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — The careers of two Miami East wrestlers came to a close Saturday night at the 81st Annual State Wrestling Tournament at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.
And what a pair of careers they were for Graham Shore and Alex Isbrandt as they join Viking legend Ryan Gambill as the only Miami East wrestlers to place four times at the state tournament.
“That’s elite company,” smiled Miami East coach Mark Rose. “Graham and Alex are special.”
For Graham Shore, he also finished his senior season where he dreamed – on top of the podium.
“It was awesome,” said Shore of winning a state title. “You can’t replicate it. I’ve dreamed about it, but living it is so much better. Even running out of the tunnel, you can’t replicate it until you actually do it.
Shore defeated Julian Sanchez (48-3) of Genoa Area 4-3 in his championship match at 120 pounds, avenging a 4-2 defeat in the quarterfinals a year ago.
“We had a plan and that plan was to stay on our feet,” said Rose. “Last year we chose bottom and he turned us for back points, so this time around we were not going to go down.”
Even when Sanchez led 1-0 after recording an escape in the second period.
“No way were we choosing bottom,” explained Rose. “Even down one-to-nothin’ with two minutes to go, we were not going there. We knew Graham would get stronger as the match went on and we knew he (Sanchez) would wear down. We were confident our conditioning would take over.”
And Shore was comfortable with the strategy as well.
“Oh, he’s a monster on top,” said Shore. “Sanchez is a goer, man. Bottom is not where you want to be.”
And the strategy worked as Shore pushed the pace and eventually scored on a takedown to take a 2-1 lead.
“It took that first period to get going, but once I wore him down I could get in deep on my shots,” Shore explained.
Instead of attempting to ride out the clock, Shore cut his opponent and surrendered an escape point to make the score 2-2 with just over one minute left.
Then, after setting up his opponent Shore powered his way in for another takedown and a 4-2 lead with 20 seconds left.
“Graham is just relentless,” praised Rose of his state champion wrestler. “He wasn’t going to be denied.”
From there the Viking wrestler surrendered one final escape point and warded off a takedown attempt by Sanchez for the thrilling win. He ends his senior campaign with a 53-1 record and a state title.
“Excitement is all I felt,” said Shore of the feeling he had when the clock ran out. “Excitement from knowing all the hard work over the past year payed off at the end.”
For Alex Isbrandt, his dreams of finishing on top of the podium were dashed in a semifinal loss on Friday.
But like a true warrior, Isbrandt rebounded with a gritty 4-3 come-from-behind win over Jared Ford of Troy Christian. It was the fourth time the two have wrestled this season with Isbrandt coming out on the winning end in close matches.
He advanced to the consolation final where he fell to Dustin Marcello (50-6) of Genoa Area 4-2.
Isbrandt ended his senior season with a 57-3 record.
“We’re proud of Alex and what he’s been able to accomplish,” Rose said. “Being a four-time state placer is a heck of an accomplishment.”
An accomplishment that puts both Shore and Isbrandt in elite company.