By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — The Troy Christian wrestling team’s run at a potential fifth state title for the program will be more than a little odd this year.
But the circumstances won’t change a thing for the Eagles on the mat.
“Winning the state team title is still the goal. That hasn’t changed,” Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy said. “It’ll just be in front of a smaller audience.”
From arguably the toughest district tournament in the entire state, Troy Christian qualified eight wrestlers to this weekend’s Division III state tournament, which will take place Friday through Sunday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center, giving the Eagles a solid shot at yet another team title. But Tuesday, the OHSAA announced that only a limited number of spectators will be allowed into the tournament in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.
The state of Ohio’s first official cases were discovered on Monday, prompting Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to declare a state of emergency and suggest that all indoor sporting events in the state limit the spectators present — and the OHSAA announced limitations shortly after that. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.
“It definitely stinks, I think,” Goudy said. “I feel terrible for our kids, for our seniors especially, and for their friends and extended family that are not allowed to come. But it’s not my call — my job is to coach these kids, no matter what else is going on.
“I told the boys that this is the bottom line: we always talk about limiting distractions, and there’s never been a bigger distraction than this — if we allow it to be. We talk about controlling the controllables, and this is something that’s out of our control. We’ve still got business to take care of.”
And if anyone knows how to tune out distractions, it’s Goudy and the Eagles.
Troy Christian won three straight team titles in D-III from 2007 to 2009, and then the Eagles added one more under coach Ty Morgan in 2013. That run included a thrilling one-point victory over Monroeville, 113-112 in 2009, where absolutely everything had to line up in the Eagles’ favor to get the win.
“We had one year against Monroeville where Zach Toal needed to get a major decision in the championship finals to get us a bonus point to win,” Goudy said. “That year, Jordan Thome had a broken ankle, and he still won a first-round match and got us a point. So much happened in just that year, and all of them could have been distractions if we let them be and cost us that title.”
The eight qualifiers this year give Troy Christian the second-most competitors in the tournament, with Milan Edison leading the field with 10 and Allen East next in line behind the Eagles with six.
“We got eight of our nine (district qualifiers) through,” Goudy said. “We had one freshman not make it out with a tough draw. And now the plan is to get all eight guys to place.
“We could put as many as five guys or as few as one in the championship finals. It’s all about how we do in every match, because it’s going to be a close team race. Milan Edison has 10 guys, and Legacy Christian may have five but they’re a solid five, so you can’t count them out. It’s anybody’s to win. We’ve just got to go out and do our job.”
That all starts with senior Ethan Turner (132, 19-4), who was a state runner-up last year and a state champion his sophomore year. He begins the tournament matched up against Columbus Bishop Ready’s Aiden Aiello (35-9).
The Eagles’ other district champion this year was Andrew Shaffer (152, 37-6). The senior will begin the tournament against Pemberville Eastwood’s Jimmy Recknagel (40-11).
Troy Christian has three returning state placers from its team last year, as well. Caleb Schroer (106, 26-14) will take on Burton Berkshire’s James Klingman (41-9) in the opening round, Austin Awan (138, 25-10) will open against Akron Manchester’s Jake White (18-2) and Troy Kennedy (120, 26-18) will face Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards (40-2) on Friday. And returning state qualifier Craig Montgomery (182, 22-7) will open against Tuscarawas Valley’s Noah Love (46-5).
The team also has a pair of newcomers. Freshman Jason Shaffer (113, 23-6) will face Greenwich S. Central’s Jayden Strickland (26-3), and freshman Connor Havill (160, 25-8) will open against Newcomerstown’s Coltin Meek (34-8).
“The kids are focused. We had a great two weeks before this and another great day today,” Goudy said. “We’re just going to try to stay loose, have fun and go out and win a state title.”
And as for the empty seats in the stands?
“We may have a smaller audience — but at Troy Christian, as followers of Christ, everything we do is for an audience of One,” Goudy said.
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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