By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
MIAMI COUNTY — Trips to the state tournament. State titles. Personal milestones
Miami County’s sports teams and athletes did it all in 2018.
So in putting together a top-five list of Miami County’s athletic achievements last year, the bar was set very high by the level of individual and team performances — and though many moments were worthy and the list was difficult to narrow down, here is a list of the best of the best of 2018 to begin the new year:
5) Bethel’s Hamlin gets 400th win
When Bethel’s boys soccer team scored on a late penalty kick to complete a late rally and defeat Brookville 3-2 in a non-league game on Oct. 11, 2018, it was just one more in a long line of thrilling victories for Bee coach Bob Hamlin.
But it was also the 400th time he coached his team to victory in his career.
“Everyone else says keeps saying it means you’re getting old,” Hamlin said with a chuckle. “Over the course of those 35 years, we’ve only had five losing seasons — and I think two or three of those were just one game under .500. We’ve created a winning tradition, and the kids have bought in to what we’re wanting to accomplish. And I’ve been blessed with good, hard-working kids and some great parents who are able to provide and support us with what we’ve needed to make this happen, make it a reality.”
The milestone came in the regular season finale. After Nick Schmidt tied the score at 2-2, senior Micah Mutlu cashed in a penalty kick with 5:55 remaining to give the Bees the lead, and the defense made it stand up from there.
“It was a very special evening,” Hamlin said. “The kids played really well that night. Coming back from being a goal down in the second half and scoring the winning goal with 5:55 left to seal the win and hold on during the last five minutes, it was a fun night and a special night. It was one of those ones you won’t forget.”
4) Newton boys golf’s run to state
The members of the Newton boys golf team felt like rockstars in their own town at the end of the season.
“It is kind of crazy,” Ross Ferrell said during the week before the Indians made their first ever state tournament appearance. “People will come up to me who I don’t even know and congratulate me. It has been pretty amazing.”
Newton, which had been favored to win the Cross County Conference entering the season, had a rough day at the conference tournament after going unbeaten in head-to-head play throughout the year and ended up finishing third. The Indians responded by winning sectional and district championships en route to their first state appearance, led by senior Chet Jamison, who was the individual medalist at both the sectional and district tournaments.
Jamison, Ferrell, Garrett Peters, Nate Zielinski and Kleyson Wehrley went on to finish sixth overall at the two-day Division III state tournament with a team score of 704, led by Jamison’s 82-76—158 for 10th individually. Still, it was an experience they’ll never forget.
“It is kind of crazy,” Wehrley said. “It is a small community, so everyone knows about it.”
3) Bradford softball’s state appearance
Led by a horde of youngsters, including a freshman pitcher, the Bradford softball team reached the state tournament for the first time ever.
The Railroaders, who started four freshman, including ace pitcher Skipp Miller, battled the top-ranked team in the state in Jeromesville-Hillsdale — a team that was making its 15th state tournament appearance and that went on to win its seventh state championship. Bradford didn’t make it easy on Hillsdale, though, battling eight innings before falling 1-0 in the state semifinal game and finishing the season 22-4.
“We have four seniors on this team who have contributed a ton this year and have helped guide our younger players, including four freshmen, by keeping it loose, keeping it fun and feeling good,” Bradford coach Shon Schaffer said after the game. “I’ve never been more proud of a team.”
2) Covington track’s state performance
Two total state champions and a runner-up finish in the team standings? Covington’s boys and girls track and field teams had a whopper of a weekend at the Division III state meet in the spring to close out the 2017-18 sports year.
The weekend began with Jett Murphy, the Buccaneer boys’ senior pole vaulter who battled injuries most of his career, defying the odds by clearing 15-0 to win his first individual state title. He cleared 15-0 on his first try, though, giving him the edge over the eventual runner-up who needed all three tries to get over.
“I knew I would be in the top two, at least,” Murphy said of clearing 15 on his first attempt. “I wanted to get it clean. It’s the height I wanted all last year and this year. It feels great to get it in my last meet.”
The next day, the 4×400 relay team of Rayna Horner, Breanna Kimmel, Paige Boehringer and Morgan Lowe gave the Buccaneer girls a state champion, winning the race in a school-record time of 3:56.71. That, combined with all of the other placers, gave Covington’s girls 32 points and second place in the team standings for the weekend, second only to champion Minster’s 57 points.
“I think for Breanna and myself, it is more nostalgic,” Horner said about the second-place team finish. “Because we are seniors and we knew this was our last trip to state.”
1) Shore, Turner win state wrestling titles
Miami County went back-to-back seasons without a wrestler claiming a state championship.
In 2018, there were two.
Miami East senior Graham Shore and Troy Christian sophomore Ethan Turner both accomplished the feat, capping of the winter sports season by putting an end to the county’s championship drought by winning their respective finals matches at the Division III state tournament in March.
For Shore, a four-time state placer, the 4-3 victory over Genoa Area’s Julian Sanchez at 120 pounds capped off a successful career and gave Miami East its first state champion since Ryan Gambill won his third in 2008. It was also payback, as Sanchez had defeated Shore 4-2 in the quarterfinals during his junior season.
“I’m glad I got him in the finals — that’s who I wanted,” Shore said after the match. “He’s a great wrestler. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. I wanted another shot at him. 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. He’s a bad dude. That match proved it.”
Turner’s finals match was similar to Shore’s for a couple of reasons — it came against Genoa Area’s Oscar Sanchez, Julian’s brother, and he also got exactly who he wanted.
“I wanted him in the finals,” Turner said after the match. “I would have been happy winning a state title no matter who I wrestled, but beating him definitely put an exclamation point on it. I wanted to beat him in the finals in front of everyone. I’ve thought about it every day since last year. Every time I walked into the practice room, I thought about it. This feels unreal. Words can’t even express how this feels.”
Turner defeated Sanchez 3-2 in a tiebreaker to win the 113-pound title — and also to avenge a loss to Sanchez from the previous year’s tournament in the semifinal round. He scored an escape in the first tiebreaker round and then rode Sanchez out in the second and final one to seal the win.
Turner’s championship was Troy Christian’s first since Garrett Hancock won his second in 2014. Turner and Shore also won Miami County’s first titles since Jarred Ganger won the last of his three state titles in 2015 — the last two of which came for Covington, and the first of which also came at Troy Christian in 2013. In the four years from 2012 to 2015, Miami County had at least one state champion.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.