By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — This time last year, three Covington High School wrestlers were just “happy to be there.”
That’s not going to cut it this year.
Last year, Covington sophomore Kellan Anderson (106 pounds), sophomore Cael Vanderhorst (113) and senior Keringten Martin (152) all made their first trips to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state tournament in Columbus. Anderson would place sixth, Vanderhorst would place eighth and Martin would drop his first two matches.
All set their sights considerably higher going into this year’s tournament, and it showed, as all three won their first matches in impressive fashion Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
“All three of them were really hungry coming in here,” Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst said. “I think it makes a huge difference when you are able to come back here a second time. I think you have a lot more confidence coming back a second time. I think all three of our guys showed that today.”
Anderson was up first. A projected state champion and one of only five Division III wrestlers to enter the state tournament undefeated (49-0), he had perhaps the most pressure of any of the three to perform Thursday. He more than lived up to the expectations, dominating Crestwood Norwayne’s Jarrison Moore on his way to a 15-0 victory. He’ll open action Friday in the quarterfinals against Pemberville Eastwood’s Gavin Owens.
“This year, there’s more of a target on my back, because no one knew who I was coming in last year,” Anderson said. “I’m defending myself and my standing more this year. I’m not as nervous as I was last year. This year, I’m going into every match the same. I know I can’t take it easy. Last year was just about getting here. This year, I want to win it — and I’m not going to let anyone stop me.”
Cael Vanderhorst also was in complete control in his opening match, cruising to a 13-2 major decision victory over Pemberville Eastwood’s Bryce Maynard.
“They both wrestled the way they should have,” Coach Vanderhorst said of Anderson and his son, Cael. “They took care of business.”
Martin fell behind early in his match against Swanton’s Ryan Marvin, a state placer last year, but came back in the third period to pull out a 9-5 victory. He’ll wrestle Mogadore’s Nick Skye Friday in his quarterfinal match. The win was sweet redemption for Martin, who didn’t make it past the first day of competition last year.
“I came ready this year,” Martin said. “I knew what I want to do. I have goals I’ve got to get. Last year was not enough for me. Last year was about getting experience. This year is about much more for me. It feels a lot better this year, winning my first match. It’s tough when you drop down (into the consolation bracket) after losing that first match. It sets in your mind. You can feel it. This year feels so much better.”
Vanderhorst was impressed with Martin’s performance.
“He was an alternate as a sophomore and was able to come over here and drill with (teammate) Lance Martin, who made it to the finals that year,” he said. “That was a good experience for him. I know last year wasn’t quite what he wanted. But he’s been working hard all year and is a much different wrestler this year than he was last year. He got a tough draw, being a district champ facing a returning state placer. But he wrestled well and was able to get the win.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong