By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
VANDALIA — After last year’s second-place finish at the GMVWA Holiday Wrestling Tournament, Covington’s Kellan Anderson entered this year’s competition with a new attitude.
“Last year, I came in thinking everyone here is really good, and I was just taking it all in,” the Buccaneer sophomore and returning state placer said. “This year, I came in ready to be that guy.”
Friday night, he proved he is that guy.
Anderson defeated Graham’s Nolan Gessler 6-3 in the 106-pound championship to claim an individual title during the finals of the GMVWA Holiday Tournament at Butler High School — and he was the only Miami County wrestler competing in the matches for first and second place, too, as everyone else had been eliminated in the quarterfinals or semis of the grueling and stacked two-day tournament.
“That was a big one for him,” Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst said of Anderson. “He came here ready to wrestle. Gessler’s got a lot of great offense, too, and we knew we had to take it to him, take our shots first. And Kellan followed the gameplan to perfection.”
And for Anderson, the biggest factor may have been the hard work in the offseason.
“I got tech-falled in the finals last year, but I think I had an easier road to get there. This year, I think I’m a lot better,” Anderson said. “I did some offseason tournaments in Iowa and Michigan, and I think those prepared me for these bigger tournaments.”
“He just keeps getting technically better,” Vanderhorst said. “He’s always had a strong desire to win, but his technique just keeps improving, which is what we’re after. Our goals are always pretty simple — to become a better wrestler every day. You can’t always control where you finish out a tournament, but you can control working hard and becoming a better wrestler.”
Making the win a little more special was that it came, not only against a wrestler from Graham — which dominates the tournament every year — but also one Anderson was already acquainted with.
“Graham’s supposed to be one of the best, so to beat one of theirs is pretty awesome,” Anderson said. “And that kid especially, because he used to beat up on me in junior high. This was the first time we’ve met since I was in eighth grade. I just took it to him and gave it everything I’ve got.”
Anderson scored the match’s first takedown with 15 seconds left in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, then he scored a quick escape in the second to go up 3-0. And with time winding down in the second period and Gessler on the offensive, Anderson did just enough to prevent a takedown as the buzzer sounded to retain that three-point lead heading into the third and final period.
“I think that was huge,” Anderson said. “It kept me in the lead, it got him a little psyched out a little and it got me going.”
Gessler got on the board with a takedown and let Anderson up with one minute remaining to make the score 4-2 — but with the score 4-3, Anderson took Gessler down one last time with 13 seconds remaining to ice the victory.
“To get that last takedown in a last match, it’s always the best thing,” Anderson said.
Between Miami County’s four representative teams — Covington, Troy Christian, Troy and Milton-Union — a total of 13 wrestlers were still in the championship hunt entering Friday morning’s quarterfinals. But only three of those reached the semifinal round, with two of them going against each other in Anderson and Troy Christian’s Caleb Schroer.
And in that match, Schroer was able to take control with a takedown — but Anderson was able to catch Schroer during another shot and turn it into a pin at the 2:55 mark.
“I knew going into that one that it’d be close,” Anderson said. “I met him at sectionals and districts last year — he beat me at sectionals, and I beat him at districts with that same move that I hit today. And this time, I got the pin with it.”
The county’s other semifinalist was Covington’s Keringten Martin (152), a senior and returning state qualifier from last year. Martin fell 5-3 to Graham’s Jeffrey Thomas in the semis, won his consolation semifinal match and eventually finished third, defeating Milton-Union’s Dylan Schenck 4-3 in the finals.
Also for the Buccs, Cael Vanderhorst (120) placed fourth, falling 3-0 to Centerville’s Damion Ryan in the finals. Austin Flick (138) placed seventh, pinning Upper Sandusky’s Brayzin McDaniel in 3:40. Riley Richards (132) placed eighth, falling 2-0 to Simon Kenton’s Migdoel Ocasio.
Covington finished second in the small-school standings with 129 points to Graham’s 306. Springboro won the large-schools division with 168.5 points to runner-up Butler’s 155.
Schroer, meanwhile, finished fifth, falling 6-0 to Legacy Christian’s Matt Ellis in the finals. Ryan Whitten (145) placed third, scored a 12-0 major decision over National Trail’s Peyton Lane. Troy Kennedy (113) finished fourth for the Eagles, pinning Legacy Christian’s Logan Attisano in 2:07. Craig Montgomery (195) placed seventh, scoring an 18-1 tech. fall over Brookville’s Chase Dyer. Mason Turner (120) placed eighth, dropping a 9-0 major decision to Graham’s Dawson Show.
As a team, Troy Christian — which wrestled without returning state champion junior Ethan Turner, who was out with an illness — placed sixth in the small-school division with 93 points.
“It’s tough,” Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy said. “When our captain wasn’t able to wrestle … I’m not saying it had any effect on the kids, but it had a 30-point effect in the team standings. But long story short? We’re not close to where we need to be yet, and that’s on me. We’ll get in there tomorrow and get it figured out.
“It’s going to be a good thing, because at the end of the day, nothing matters until March anyway. We’re going to get it fixed now so we can finish where we want to finish. We’ve got some guys disappointed with how they wrestled, but if this sport teaches you anything, it teaches you that you’re only as good as your next match.”
Troy finished 25th in the large-school division with 20 points and had one placer, as Carlos Quintero (152) placed seventh, defeating Eaton’s Chris Weadick 11-5 in the finals.
Milton-Union finished 14th in the small-school division with 44.5 points and also had one placer, with Schenck (152) placing fourth after falling to Martin in the finals.
Versailles finished 10th in the small-school division with 61.5 points and had two placers. Isaac Grilliot (195) placed sixth, falling 7-2 to Delaware Hayes’ Jacob McCloskey in the finals. Kobe Epperly (113) placed seventh, pinning Springboro’s Michael Gust in 2:45.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.