By Rob Kiser
KETTERING – When you come up just short of the ultimate goal, it can be hard to see the big picture.
It was that way for Piqua sophomore 113-pounder Sam Herndon Saturday at the Division I district wrestling tournament at Trent Arena.
After winning two matches Friday to advance to the semifinals, Herndon had a tough finish to his season Saturday — losing three times to state caliber wrestlers and coming up one win short of qualifying for the state tournament.
But, Herndon made some big strides in finishing 34-12 and finishing his season on the podium at district.
“I got better,” Herndon said. “It will motivate me (for next season).”
Herndon had advanced to the semifinals on Friday, recording a 12-1 major decision over Jacob Boulton of Springboro and winning a 10-9 thriller over Harry Sand of Turpin.
Saturday’s day started with a 9-0 loss to Northmont state qualifier Chad Craft in the semifinals. Craft had pinned Herndon in the title match of the GWOC tournament three weeks ago.
Herndon faced Vandalia-Butler’s Josh Suddeth in the go-to state match.
Herndon had beaten Suddeth 1-0 in overtime in the GWOC semifinals and 7-5 in the sectional title match last week.
But this was a different match, with Suddeth winning 10-0.
“He came after me,” Herndon said. “He wrestled a strong match.”
Piqua wrestling coach Scott Kaye agreed.
“We knew he was going to wrestle Sam (Herndon) differently this time,” Kaye said. “He had lost twice to him. He came out aggressive. I think Sam was a little nervous. We warned Sam (Herndon) about him attacking his feet. We could see that coming.
“But, I think Sam was a little nervous and reacted a little slower than normal.”
Herndon then wrestled Jabari Thomas of Fairfield for fifth place.
Herndon showed what he was made of.
He was down 7-0 late in the second period, when he hit a five-point move.
Herndon started the third period with an escape to make it 7-6, but Thomas held on for a 9-6 victory.
“Sam (Herndon) wrestled a good match,” Kaye said. “He wrestled tough. He just made a couple of mistakes that cost him.”
Herndon, along with Nick Baker (120) and Andrew Bolin (138) are district qualifiers that will be back next year, while Jake Hetzler (285) had an outstanding career come to an end.
“Hopefully, they (the three returners) will continue their work in the spring and summer,” Kaye said. “Hopefully, they can come back next year and get a little further.”
As for the big picture, Kaye had no trouble seeing it with Herndon.
“Sam volunteers two nights a week and Sundays to help with the youth club,” Kaye said. “It is very rewarding to see what he has accomplished this year. He is a district placer. That is one heck of an accomplishment.”
Which Herndon will understand, once he sees the big picture.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.