By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Miami East’s Alex Isbrandt likes to make it weird.
Covington’s Lancer Miller prefers to dominate in traditional fashion.
Both Isbrandt (132) and Miller (160) will be competing in Saturday’s state championship matches after winning handily in Friday night’s semifinals at the Division III state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Isbrandt used his length and height to shut out Rootstown’s Brad Trescott 6-0, while Miller took a big early lead over Nelsonville-York’s Tyler Speelman and held on for a 9-7 victory to reach the finals.
Isbrandt, who won a 4-1 decision over Garrettsville Garfield’s Logan Kissell in the quarterfinals during the Friday morning session, finished third place in both the sectional and district tournaments. But in his semifinal match against Trescott, he left no doubt, controlling it from start to finish by making his opponent uncomfortable.
“I just like to be in weird positions that other people don’t like,” Isbrandt said. “My goal was to not let him get into positions where he felt comfortable.”
“Alex is 6-foot-2, 132 pounds. There’s some length there,” Miami East coach Mark Rose said. “That (height and length) gives him some leverage, but it does have its drawbacks, too.
“I’ll tell you what, all four guys we brought this weekend are hard workers, and it’s nice to see it pay off for Alex. He was third at the sectional and at districts, and he beat the third-ranked guy here this morning. Now he’s going for the state championship in a rematch of the sectional semifinal. That just shows you how crazy this tournament is.”
Isbrandt will face Mechanicsburg’s Alex Rhine, who he is 1-2 against this season.
“I’ve wrestled him three times this year. He beat me the first time, then I beat him, then he beat me again,” Isbrandt said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet (that he is in the championship match). I’d hoped to be here. I just wanted to come out and wrestle to my ability and not let anyone else get in my way.”
For Miller, there simply was a turning point during the course of the season.
“At one point this season, I’m not sure when, something just triggered it in me,” the Covington senior said. “I just figured out that I’m good enough. I think it happened when I was wrestling at Marion, and I’ve been a different wrestler ever since.”
Covington coach Tom Barbee could pinpoint what led to the change.
“He’s been focused ever since the Troy Invitational when he got bumped up to 170 and faced off against a state kid,” he said. “That got his attention, and he’s been on fire ever since.”
Miller, who won convincingly in the quarterfinals, pinning West Jefferson’s Josh Doherty in 3:42, built a 6-2 lead in his semifinal match against Speelman and was in complete control early. Speelman closed that gap to 8-5 in the third period, though, but Miller was able to hold on for the win.
“I was just wrestling kind of stupid, letting him get his throws off,” Miller said. “But I gathered myself and wrestled smarter.”
“The first three points we gave up were by giving up escapes to go for more takedowns,” Barbee said. “That was the gameplan. Here, you don’t want to take a chance on getting put to your back, getting caught in a five-point move. We wanted to stay in our situation. And Lance has been very coachable here at the end, which is important.”
After the win, Miller went running to find his family.
“Oh, I just ran up to my family, hugged everyone, cried a little bit,” he said, still emotional. “It just feels amazing. I’ve had a video of the Parade of Champions on my phone from when I qualified as a sophomore, and I watch it every day. It feels amazing.”
Miller will face Genoa Area’s James Limongi in Saturday’s title match.
Two other area wrestler came up short in the semifinals.
Troy Christian’s Ethan Turner (106) and Jacob Edwards (113) both simply couldn’t find ways to score in their championship semifinal matches during the evening session, with Turner falling to Genoa Area’s Oscar Sanchez in a 4-1 decision, and Edwards falling to Shadyside’s Greg Quinn in a 1-0 decision.
Edwards, a state runner-up at 106 as a sophomore last season, fought through a scoreless first two periods against Quinn, last year’s state runner-up at 113. When it came time to choose position to start the third period, the Eagles elected to let Quinn up, giving him one point, and go for a takedown to get the lead — but Quinn remained on the defensive the entire time.
“Coach decided to kick him in the third because we felt like I’d have a better chance to take him down,” Edwards said. “I just couldn’t get to my offense. He just kept smothering me. Scouting him, we knew he was like a bully and pushes everyone. I felt like the whole match he was pushing me and didn’t really do anything on offense himself.”
“That kid was a runner-up last year, but Jacob really wanted another shot at (Genoa Area’s) Dylan D’Emilio,” Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy said, referring to the opponent that Edwards finished second to last season. “But now we won’t get that. We never got the chance to see him in the regular season, as he was up at 120 when we saw them.
“There were some things Jacob could’ve done differently. We let the pressure off at times. But we’ll go back, watch the video and get it fixed.”
Turner — only a freshman — faced off against a sophomore in Sanchez. Sanchez scored a takedown in the match’s first minute to take control and then played defense from there, holding on for the victory.
And though it was his first time on the biggest high school stage in the state, Turner wasn’t affected that much — though he has taken it all in.
“It is a totally new experience, a whole new set of nerves,” Turner said. “I’m used to wrestling at state in junior high, but this was a totally different experience.
“I was expecting to win. I went in with confidence and knowing I could impose my will. But you’re only as good as your next match, so now I have to focus on that.”
“I felt confident that Ethan would get to the finals,” Goudy said. “That’s where you want to get. But the goal is also to be a state champion, and we would have had to beat that kid for that to happen anyway. So we’ll spend the summer figuring out why we got beat and come back next year.”
In the quarterfinals, Turner won a 6-2 decision over Coshocton’s Lucian Brink, while Edwards defeated Oak Harbor’s Cameron Dickman in a 6-1 decision.
“It’s not how we wanted to start off the night, but both guys gave a great effort,” Goudy said. “We just couldn’t get our offense going in either match. But that’s why you wrestle, and tonight, those guys were the better wrestlers. But these kids will regroup and come back tomorrow.”
“I’ve just got to think it over for a bit tonight, then bounce back and finish the best I can,” Edwards said. “I’ll sleep on it tonight and go out and try to get third tomorrow.”
Troy Christian’s Jared Ford (138) lost a narrow 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals to Archbold’s Noah Mattin, but he won a 10-5 decision over Ashtabula St. John’s Nick Burgard in the second consolation round. He then defeated Tontogany Otsego’s J.D. McNett 5-3 in the consolation quarterfinals. And Seth Douglas (285) was pinned in 59 seconds by Magnolia Sandy Valley’s Fransesco Borsellino in the quarterfinals, but he pinned Swanton’s Thomas Lytle in 2:37 in the second consolation round to stay alive. In the consolation quarterfinals, Douglas was pinned with 1:28 remaining in the third period by Williamsburg’s Brian Stears.
Michael Sergent (132) saw his career come to an end in the second consolation round, falling by a 9-1 decision to Massilon Tuslaw’s Isaac Elliott. Damon Beatty (182) was also eliminated in the second consolation round, pinned by Gibsonburg’s Madison Jaso in 1:24.
Miami East’s Graham Shore (120) lost his quarterfinal match to Genoa Area’s Julian Sanchez by a 4-2 decision, but he bounced back with a 21-6 tech. fall over Galion Northmor’s Jakob Neer in the second consolation round. In the consolation quarters, he routed Ridgedale’s Kalib Patterson with a 20-4 tech. fall.
Kaleb Nickels (113) lost in the second consolation round 7-5 in sudden victory overtime to Milan Edison’s Dylan Burns, and Zane Strubler (138) dropped a 4-2 decision to Ada’s Chase Summer in the same round, bringing their seasons to an end.
Milton-Union’s Kamron Paulus (138) lost both matches in the morning session, bringing his career to a close. He was pinned by Milan Edison’s Brady Barnett in 2:42 in the quarterfinals, then he lost a 9-6 decision in the second consolation round to Wooster Triway’s Brian Persinger.
Lehman’s Wyatt Long (195) also saw his season end in the second consolation round, falling 9-1 to Smithville’s John Kelbly.
In Division II, a stellar season came to an end for Tippecanoe junior Caleb Blake in the morning session. Blake was defeated in the second consolation round by Norton’s Bret Baker in a 7-2 decision.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.