By David Fong
COLUMBUS — Graham Shore did the same thing to his parents that he’s done to so many of his opponents the past four years.
He brought them to tears.
Of course, the tears that flowed from the eyes of George and Tracie Shore were of joy — unlike the tears of anguish their son usually induces on his vanquished foes — after Graham finally finished off the mission he started four years ago, capturing his first state title Saturday at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state wrestling tournament, defeating Genoa Area’s Julian Sanchez 4-2 in the 120-pound state title match.
“They almost made me cry,” said Shore, who ran over to where his parents were sitting and quickly was enveloped in their arms seconds after defeating Sanchez. “You saw them bawling. I know how much this meant to them. They both do everything they can to help me. My mom is in there washing off the mats after practice.”
It was a long, difficult climb to the top for Shore, who became just the third four-time state placer in school history — joining Ryan Gambill and teammate Alex Isbrandt — who placed seventh as a freshman and third each of the past two years, losing both of his matches in his last two trips to state by a combined three points. Last year, he dropped a 4-2 decision to Sanchez in the quarterfinals.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Shore said of his title match. It was the fifth time they have met in their high school careers, with Shore now winning the series 3-2 after Saturday’s victory. “He’s a bad dude. That match proved it.”
After a scoreless first period, Sanchez chose the down position to start the second period and earned an escape to take a 1-0 lead into the final period.
At that point, Shore went against conventional wisdom and, rather than take the down position and try to earn an escape to tie the match, he went neutral, knowing he’d need a takedown to win the match.
“That was our game plan all along,” Miami East coach Mark Rose said. “Sanchez is an animal on top. We didn’t want to give him that opportunity. We wanted to wrestle this match on our feet. That’s where Graham is best. We wrestled five minutes and 30 seconds of this match on our feet. Besides, even if you get the escape in that situation, you still have to get the takedown to win it, or else you are tied 1-1 and going into overtime.”
The plan worked to perfection as Shore scored the takedown early in the third period, then allowed an escape to tie the match at 2-2. Shore went back to work and scored a second takedown to take a 4-2 lead with 40 seconds left in the match. Sanchez would earn another escape, trimming Shore’s lead to 4-3. Shore was able to hold off a furious final charge by Sanchez to bring home East’s first state wrestling title since Gambill won his third in 2008.
“I knew it was going to be a battle, because that’s the kind of competitor Julian Sanchez is. He’s going to go whistle-to-whistle for the whole six minutes.”
Shore said that despite wrestling on the grandest stage, he was as comfortable as he’s ever been competing at state. It was his final high school match before he leaves to compete in college at the United States Air Force Academy.
“I knew in the last 30 seconds if I won, I was going to go wrestle for Air Force,” he said. “If I lost, I was still going to wrestle for Air Force.”
Rose said Shore capturing a state title was, indeed, a family affair.
“We’ve had a little bit of a drought with our state titles,” he said. “It was great to see a kid like Graham snap it. What more can you ask for from a kid? He’s worked so hard to get where he is. And he comes from such a great family. It was nice to see him be able to celebrate with his parents — and I guarantee his seven siblings were sitting somewhere up in the stands watching, too.”
Quite possibly with tears in their eyes, too.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong
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