By David Fong
TROY — Mark Rose doesn’t know much about being the little guy.
Well, not personally, anyway.
Rose was a heavyweight from the time he began wrestling at Miami East High School all the way his All-American career at Ashland University. Even when he was little, he was big.
As a coach at his alma mater, however, East’s coach frequently finds his Division III team in the role of the Biblical David — and more often than not, his team is able to slay Goliath. Such was the case Saturday as the Vikings ran away with first place at the Troy Invitational for the second year in a row, crowning five individual champions while piling up 259.5 points.
In fact, the top three teams were all Division III schools, as Covington was second with 185 points and Coldwater was third with 171 points, outdistancing the 14-team field, more than half of which consisted of Division I schools. The host Trojans finished eighth with 105.5 points.
“I think as one of the smaller schools, you always have a chip on your shoulder,” Rose said. “It’s the same thing when we go up to Medina — it’s pretty much all Division I schools up there. When you are a smaller school, you always want to perform well, especially when you are at someplace close like Troy.
“It feels pretty good to win this. We’ve been working really hard and we’ve had some injuries we’ve had to overcome. We’re still not at full strength yet, but I was very pleased with how we wrestled.”
East picked up its first individual title at 126 pounds in one of the most highly anticipated match-ups of the afternoon when three-time state placer Graham Shore knocked off Troy’s Joe Pascale with a 14-6 major decisions. That kicked off a string of four-straight individual titles for the Vikings.
At 132 pounds, sophomore Kaleb Nickels pinned Ben Logan’s Joel Abbott in 1:55 in the championship match. Three-time state placer Alex Isbrandt followed that up by pinning Ben Logan’s Cole Houser in 3:21 to claim a title at 138 pounds. At 145-pounds, Zane Strubler pinned Greenville’s Jacob Mikesell in 1:59 to take first place. Miami East’s fifth title came at 220 pounds, where Brenden Dalton pinned Coldwater’s Nolan Tobe in just 1:03.
Miami East earned team bonus points throughout the day not only from its five champions, but all of its wrestlers, which Rose said was key to the team’s overall success. Also, in addition to its five champions, Olivia Shore (106 pounds) and Matthew Welker (182) placed second, Garett Kowalak (113) and Brad Wittenmyer (120) placed fourth and Travis Ferguson (152) placed fifth.
“Today we filled 11 (out of 14) weight classes,” Rose said. “When we are at full strength, we can fill 12 if we really get creative. That’s why we’ve been preaching all year about the importance of bonus points. If you can score enough points, you can almost make up for the spot you are missing.”
That the top three teams at Saturday’s tournament were all Division III schools came as little surprise to Covington coach Eric Vandershorst, who saw his team crown a pair of individual champions on its way to second place.
“Division III wrestling in our area is killer,” he said. “If you look at the number of state placers, we have the toughest Division III sectional and district in the state. It’s really a high, high caliber of wrestling. We like it because it gives us competition throughout the year. When we take on teams from other parts of the state, we know we can hang and we can compete.”
The Buccaneers’ first title came at 106, where Kellan Anderson defeated Olivia Shore in a hard-fought 5-4 contest, avenging an earlier loss to her in a dual meet this season. The two likely will meet again down the road at sectionals, districts and, quite possibly, the state meet. At 113, Cael Vanderhorst went undefeated in his pool to bring home a title, pinning Coldwater’s Brian Chmielewski in 5:21 during his final match.
Also for the Buccaneers, Kerington Martin (152) and Gavin McReynolds (182) placd third, Austin Flick (138), Trentin Alexander (160) and Hunter Clarkson (170) placed fourth, Taylen Viner (120) placed fifth and Riley Richards (126) and Dylan Staudt (220) placed sixth.
“I thought our kids wrestled well,” Vanderhorst said. “We’ve got a young team — we’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores — but we felt like we could come over here and be in the top four, which we did.”
So impressive was the small-school showing Saturday that Troy coach Doug Curnes — who leads a Division I team — saw much his team could emulate.
“That’s the kind of program we want to have,” he said. “When you look at the number of multi-sport athletes they have — kids who play more than just one sport — that’s what we need to be able to do here. We want kids who aren’t just focused on one sport and are going to come out and wrestle, too. Shane Shoop is a perfect example of that. He knows wrestling has made him a better football player.”
Shoop captured Troy’s lone championship, pinning Wayne Trace’s Hunter Showalter in 3:47 at 170 pounds. Also for the Trojans, Pascale took second, Carlos Quintero (138) was third Mitchell Francis (113), Kameron Savage (182) and Jake Browning (285) all were sixth.
“I thought our kids wrestled well,” Curnes said. “We had some health issues, which is something we struggle with because we don’t have a lot of depth. But I thought all of our kids placed about where we expected them to. It was a good tournament.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong