By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
MIAMI COUNTY — After a weekend without wrestling, Miami County’s wrestlers are still feeling the loss.
And one group that especially feels it is the area’s seniors.
“Definitely devastated,” Troy Christian senior Ethan Turner said. “We were all prepared (to wrestle), and when that announcement came Thursday, it definitely devastated a lot of people. Myself included.”
For some, it was one last shot at a championship. For others, it was to be their first and only experience on the state’s biggest stage. But in the end, the Ohio High School Athletic Association made the decision to postpone the state wrestling tournament — which had been scheduled to take place March 13-15 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus — indefinitely in an attempt to slow the spread of a global pandemic in the form of coronavirus, COVID-19.
“Right now, I don’t know how to feel even. I’m still in shock,” said Caleb Schroer, another Troy Christian senior. Of the Eagles’ eight state qualifiers this year, four were seniors. “My dad always told me that these four years would just fly by. At that moment, I didn’t think much of it. But after having state taken away my senior year, it didn’t make any sense at first. I’m still in shock.”
Turner was a state champion as a sophomore and a state runner-up last year, while Schroer placed fifth last year. Fellow seniors Craig Montgomery and Andrew Shaffer were also returning state qualifiers, with Shaffer having placed seventh in Division II for Graham his sophomore year.
“Honestly, it’s sad that we missed the opportunity to go to state this year,” Montgomery said. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s no reason to beat ourselves up about it. There’s nothing we could have done to change things.”
“I’m pretty (angry), especially since it was senior year,” Shaffer said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. Just focus on wrestling in college.”
For two other seniors, Troy’s Carlos Quintero and Milton-Union’s Peyton Brown, this year’s tournament was to be their one and only chance to compete at that level.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to feel. It all just seems so unreal,” Quintero said.
“It’s definitely surreal to me,” Brown said. “All of the work I’ve put in since I started wrestling … it’s definitely upsetting. Especially with the announcement coming the day before it was supposed to start. It’s just surreal — everything that’s going on right now is.
“I was definitely looking forward to proving everyone wrong. After getting fourth at the sectional, people said there was no way I’d make it to state. I wasn’t supposed to get out of districts, but I did. And I know I could’ve gotten on that podium at state.”
The tournament’s cancellation was just one domino in an ever-lengthening string. All of the OHSAA’s postseason tournaments were postponed indefinitely, with the boys and girls basketball and hockey state tournaments all being halted. Every major professional sports league has also suspended or delayed their seasons, the NCAA cancelled the men’s and women’s tournaments and many college leagues have already cancelled their spring seasons.
“I really wish we could have finished the season,” Montgomery said. “Going through the entire year with it all leading up to state, I do wish we could have gotten some closure, despite wherever we might have ended up. But I’m not mad at them for making these decisions. I understand. I’m just focused on the future now.”
“I mean, even if we don’t get to have the tournament, there’s still a bigger picture at work,” Turner said. “I’ve still got other people supporting me, and I’ve still got five more years to compete (at the University of Missouri).
“For some kids in Ohio, though, this was their last chance to compete. They’re not going to get a next match.”
The OHSAA still hopes to hold the tournament, though, and hasn’t cancelled it outright yet.
“I never had that experience, and I was looking forward to it,” Quintero said. “I do hope they still have it. I’m still training, trying to maintain my weight as best as I can without practicing, which is hard but doable. I do have hope that they might still have the tournament.”
“I have hope. You’ve got to have hope,” Brown said. “It’s mental, just like wrestling. It doesn’t matter if they have it in March or April or September, I want to get what I’ve worked for.”
“I still try to train every day still,” Turner said. “I’m not going to let this hinder me.”
And for Brown specifically, the pain is twofold. He also plays tennis for Milton-Union, and the OHSAA postponed the start of spring season until at least the beginning of April.
“I actually just got back from hitting,” Brown said. “It definitely affects our mentality towards it, because we know there’s a chance that spring sports get cancelled, too. And I’ve got some pretty big goals for the postseason in tennis, too.”
And in the end, everyone is affected by the tournament’s absence.
“People always talk about the senior aspect of it, but everybody worked for this,” Turner said.
“It’s pretty crappy, but I feel like whether you’re a senior or freshman or sophomore or junior, we’re all hurt,” Quintero said. “We all worked all year long for the chance to go. I’m a senior, and everyone says they feel sorry for me, but everyone should feel the same way about all of us.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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