By David Fong
TROY — With the team title on the line, Brenden Dalton wanted all of the pressure placed squarely across his broad shoulders.
“It always comes down to the big man,” the Miami East junior wrestler said as he allowed a grin to sneak through his sweat-covered visage following his 220-pound championship win Saturday in the Division III district wrestling tournament at Hobart Arena.
With county teams Miami East and Troy Christian neck-and-neck in the team standings all throughout the day, it was Dalton’s win in the penultimate weight class that slammed the door shut, giving the Vikings 140 team points, enough to edge Troy Christian, which finished with 135. Covington was fifth with 79 points.
It’s the first district wrestling championship in Miami East history.
“It feels like hitting the game-winning 3,” Dalton said, using a basketball analogy to describe his excitement.
While Dalton scored the final points on East’s historic day, the Vikings racked up most of their points in the lower weights. Miami East won three district titles, with Graham Shore (120 pounds) and Alex Isbrandt (138) also finishing the day atop the podium. Kaleb Nickels (126) placed third to earn a fourth state berth for the Vikings. Zane Strubler (145) placed fifth and Olivia Shore (106) placed sixth, just missing out on a trips to state, but earning more valuable points for the Vikings.
“For us to win the first district title in school history, this feels amazing,” Miami East wrestling coach Mark Rose said. “Our whole team wrestled well. I am so proud of our kids. I couldn’t be more excited for them.”
All told, it was a banner day for all of Miami County, which brought home six district championships and qualified 15 total wrestlers for next week’s state meet — four from Miami East, five from Troy Christian, four from Covington, one from Milton-Union and one from Bethel, who became the first wrestler in school history to make it to state.
At 120, Graham Shore cruised to a district title by pinning all four of his opponents, including Allen East’s Drake Carmean in 3:21 of the finals. So clean was Shore’s path to a district title that he spent most of the tournament worried about his younger sister Olivia, who ended up placing sixth at 106.
“I’m always more focused on her matches,” he said. “Her matches stress me out way more than my own. She’s got a lot on her shoulders. I feel for her. I really do.”
Isbrandt — who, like the elder Shore, became a four-time state qualifier Saturday — was wrestling in the first-place match for the first time in his career. In his previous three trips to districts, he stumbled on his way to the finals and had to settle for the third-place match.
He responded to his first title match a 5-1 win over Troy Christian’s Jared Ford. It was the fourth time the two have met this season, with Isbrandt winning all four — Ford’s only four losses of the season. Isbrandt is ranked first in the state at 138, while Ford is ranked second.
There’s a good chance they’ll meet for a fifth time next week with a state title on the line.
“It always makes you better when you wrestle someone as good as him,” Isbrandt said. “It felt good going into the first-place match for a change. It was something I’ve never done before. It’s good to be going back to state.”
Dalton also won a district title for East, while Nickels placed third, Strubler fifth and Olivia Shore sixth.
Senior Jacob Edwards (132) and sophomore Ethan Turner (113) — both state placers last year — won district titles for the Eagles Saturday.
Edwards won his title with a 6-4 win over Legacy Christian’s Clint Brown in the finals. Edwards will be making his fourth trip to state, having placed there twice before, including second as a sophomore.
“It feels great to be going back,” Edwards said. “There’s only one thing I haven’t done over there yet, and that’s win it. I’ve got one more chance to make it happen. That’s my goal. We’ll see what next week brings. I’m not supposed to win it, but I want to go over and see what I can do.”
Turner won his district championship with a 6-4 overtime victory over Covington freshman Cael Vanderhorst.
“It’s good to be going back a second time — I’d like to get a rematch with Oscar,” Turner said of Oscar Sanchez, the Genoa Area wrestlers who defeated him last year in the state semifinals. Turner would rebound to place third. “Obviously I can’t look past anyone, though. I’ve got to go out and compete Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
Joining Edwards and Turner at state will be Ford (138), who placed second, and Craig Montgomery (170) and Damon Beatty (182), both of whom placed fourth.
Also placing at districts for the Eagles were Caleb Schroer (106) and Nick Baker (220), both of whom placed fifth, and Austin Awan (145), who placed sixth.
As the only wrestler in his entire school, Bethel’s Kellen Calhoun is used to a solitary lifestyle.
Saturday, he learned it’s also lonely at the top as he claimed the first district wrestling title in school history and become the first wrestler in school history to earn a trip to state with a 5-2 win over Ottawa Glandorf’s Danny Rosales in the finals.
“It gets lonely sometimes,” Calhoun said of being the only wrestler in his school. “But it’s OK. I follow Tecumseh around a lot. They are kind of my adoptive school.”
Calhoun is coached by his father, Kelly, and trains with wrestlers at other high schools. He’s been wrestling in youth programs his entire life and considered transferring to a high school with an established program, but ultimately his family decided against it.
“We thought about it, but my mom loves Bethel,” he said. “It’s a good academic school.”
Calhoun missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, but things have come together for him this year as he’s managed to stay healthy and peak in the postseason.
“It feels great,” he said of going to state. “To be the only person in school history to do that is pretty amazing.”
Covington has four wrestlers headed to state — not bad for a team that didn’t produce a single sectional championship heading into the district tournament.
Freshmen Kellan Anderson (106) and Vanderhorst (113) both placed second for the Buccaneers, while junior Keringten Martin (152) and sophomore Gage Kerrigan (195) both placed fourth.
“I’m happy with our guys,” Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst said. “With no sectional champions, there were no ‘locks’ for us coming into this. We surprised some people. We came out and wrestled well.”
Milton-Union will be sending one wrestler to state. The Bulldogs’ Dylan Schenck, a junior, placed fourth at 145 pounds.
* Division I
KETTERING — Troy High School senior Joe Pascale fell short in his bid to make the state tournament in the Division I district tournament at Fairmont’s Trent Arena.
Pascale (126) — already in the consolation round after Friday — won his first match of the day, pinning Fairmont’s Michael Maas in 1:41. In the consolation quarterfinals, however, Butler’s Bailey Suddeth beat Pascale by an 11-1 major decision.
* Division II
WILMINGTON — Tippecanoe’s Caleb Blake is headed back to state.
The 145-pound senior placed third at the Division II district tournament at Wilmington.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.
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