By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — There was no shortage of newsworthy events in the Miami County sports world in 2017.
While there were dozens of events to choose from, we tried to narrow it down to the top five most-newsworthy moments of the year. We apologize in advance to those we may have missed and congratulate all of the county’s local athletes for an incredible 365 days.
Without any further ado:
5) Wrestling with success
As has been the case for more than a decade, Miami County wrestlers had a huge showing at the state wrestling tournament — but fell just short of capturing any individual state championships.
Miami East’s Alex Isbrandt (132 pounds) and Covington’s Lance Miller (160 pounds) both missed out on state championships by the narrowest of margins. Isbrandt lost an 8-6 sudden victory decision to Mechanicsburg’s Alex Rhine, while Miller lost a 1-0 decision to Genoa Area’s James Limongi.
It’s only the third time the county has not had a state champion wrestler since 2005 and the first time since the 2003 and 2004 seasons the county has gone two years in a row without a state champion. In 2005, Miami East’s Ryan Gambill captured what would be the first of his three state championships, essentially kick-starting a decade of unprecedented dominance for Miami County wrestling.
Since 2005, Miami County’s schools have combined to win a total of 23 individual state championships. All of those individual titles have been won by Troy Christian (17), Covington (three) and Miami East (three). Troy Christian also won four state titles (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013) and finished as the state runner-up twice during that span.
A total of seven county wrestlers placed at state in 2017.
4) New home for Tippecanoe
Tippecanoe completed its first year of competition in the Greater Western Ohio Conference in the spring of 2017 — and by all accounts, the Red Devils more than held their own after making the jump from the Central Buckeye Conference.
Tippecanoe finished third in the GWOC American North Division All-Sports Trophy standings, the truest overall measure of success for an athletic program. Troy won the all-sports title with 105.5 points, while Butler was second with 103.5 and Tippecanoe was close behind with 93.5 points. Sidney was a distant fourth with 63.6 points, followed by Greenville (61.5) and Piqua (55.5).
Tippecanoe captured division titles in boys cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer (all of which technically happened in the fall of 2016) and girls basketball.
3) Just for kicks
It was a soccer season unlike any other for Miami County, as a record-setting three schools advanced to the regional championship — one match short of the state semifinals.
The Tippecanoe boys soccer team finished third in the Division II state coaches poll, captured a GWOC North championship and defeated Wilmington to win a district championship. After beating Columbus Academy in the regional semifinals, Tippecanoe lost to Alter in the regional title game.
The Tippecanoe girls soccer team finished second to Troy in the GWOC North, but then went on a tournament run that saw it defeat longtime nemesis Alter to win a Division II district title, then beat Hamilton Badin in the regional semifinals before losing to Cincinnati Indian Hill in the regional semifinals.
The Troy Christian boys soccer team advanced to the regional title game for the first time in school history. The Eagles won the Metro Buckeye Conference, then moved on to beat Cincinnati Seven Hills in the Division III district title game and Cincinnati Madeira in the regional semifinals before falling to Cincinnati Summit Country Day in the regional title game.
2) East’s run comes to an end
The Miami East volleyball team’s seniors may have fallen short in their goal of repeating as Division III state champions, but considering all they accomplished the past four years, can still leave with their heads held high. In the past four seasons, East reached the regional semifinals in 2014, won a regional title and played in the state semifinals in 2015, won state in 2016 and made it to the regional finals in 2017.
The Vikings finished the regular season ranked No. 5 in the state. They beat Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in the district championship, then defeated Anna in the regional semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Versailles in the regional championship match.
1) Playoff shake-ups
The county football playoff picture had a much different look to it in 2017 as two lengthy playoff streaks came to an end, one team made the postseason for the first time in nearly two decades and an unlikely team now has the longest playoff streak in county history.
Tippecanoe finished the regular season 4-6, while Covington finished 5-5, keeping the two teams out of the Division III and Division VI playoffs, respectively. That brought a 12-year playoff streak to an end for both teams, tied for the longest of any two teams in the country.
That left Miami East — which qualified for its sixth straight playoff appearance (eighth overall) under head coach Max Current — as the county team with the longest streak of playoff appearances. That says a lot about how far the program has come under Current, considering the school strongly considered shutting down the program in the late 1990s while in the midst of a losing streak that stretched past 40 games.
Bethel finished 9-1 to qualify for the Division VI playoffs for the first time since 2001. Lehman qualified for the playoffs in Division VII, the Cavaliers’ fifth playoff appearance in a row.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong