By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — With five of his seven wrestlers making their maiden voyages to the state tournament, Troy Christian wrestling coach Steve Goudy found himself looking in odd places for something to put their minds at ease.
“I showed them ‘Hoosiers,’” Goudy said of the iconic Indiana high school basketball movie. “I hated using a basketball movie, but that’s what I had to do. I showed them the scene where they measure the baskets at state and they are the same height as they are back in their home gym. We took them out to the mats here and measure them. They were the same size as the mats back in our wrestling room in Troy.”
The coaching tactic seemed to pay off for Goudy and the Eagles Friday, as they went 5-2 in first-round matches at the Division III state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Junior Caleb Schroer (106 pounds), junior Ethan Turner (126), senior Ryan Whitten (145), junior Craig Montgomery (170) and senior Nick Backer (220) all won their opening matches and will compete today in the quarterfinals.
Turner, who placed third as a freshman, captured a state title last year. He entered this year’s tournament with extra motivation after losing to Legacy Christian’s Gavin Brown last week in the district finals. In his first match, he pinned Independence’s Michael Kucera in 3:00.
“That lit the fire,” Turner said of his loss a week ago. “That just made me more motivated in practice every single day this week. It’s something I started thinking about Sunday, then that carried over into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; it just flowed from one day into the next. Every day in practice, I was ready to go. It was time to get back to business.”
Turner’s road to a second straight state title has the potential to be a difficult one. Of the 16 wrestlers in the weight class, six are returning state placers.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” he said. “Everyone wants to be the best. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. I want (state title) No. 2. It was never enough to get one. It’s always been my dream to win multiple state titles, and that’s my goal.”
Two other Troy Christian wrestlers also won by pin. At 106, Schroer pinned Gates Mills Hawken’s Patrick Reineke in just 1:18. In Friday’s quarterfinals, he’ll wrestle Barnesville’s Griffen Stephen. At 220, Baker pinned Wellington’s Mike Casella in 1:46. In Friday’s quarterfinals, he’ll wrestle Bloomdale Elmwood’s Will Bechstein.
“It feels a lot better than normal tournaments,” Baker said of competing at state for the first time. “I’ve been around Troy Christian my entire life. I remember coming over here and watching this when I was younger. That helped, knowing what it was like over here. But it feels great to be competing here.”
At 145, Whitten beat West Salem Northwestern’s Cael Rowling, 4-0. In Friday’s quarterfinals, he’ll face Genoa Area’s Dustin Morgillo, who placed third at 138 pounds last year. At 170, Montgomery beat Apple Creek Waynesdale’s Micah Hershberger, 7-4. In Friday’s quarterfinals, he’ll face off against Gibsonburg’s Brad Mendoze, a two-time state placer.
Troy Kennedy (113) and Austin Awan (138) lost their opening matches, with Kennedy falling by pin in 3:45 to MIlan Edison’s Casey Barnett and Awan falling by 12-1 major decision to Newark Catholic’s J.T. Brown. In the consolation rounds, Kennedy pinned Columbiana’s Brandt Virden in 1:52, while Awan defeated Orrville’s Wyatt Zimmerman, 1-0. Both will continue in the consolation rounds Friday.
“We’ve just got to come back and be ready to wrestle again (Friday),” Goudy said. “We need to get as many points as we can if we want to bring some hardware back to Troy, Ohio.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong