By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — Ethan Turner came into the weekend perhaps the most disrespected returning state champion in the field.
Max Shore came in as the talented freshman who faced a brutal path in a loaded weight class.
Both will wrestle for state championships Friday.
Troy Christian’s Turner, a junior at 126 pounds, and East’s Shore, a freshman at 113, both won their semifinal matches Friday to earn spots in the finals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Miami County went 2-3 in the semifinals, as Troy Christian’s Caleb Schroer (106), Covington’s Cael Vanderhorst (113) and Covington’s Keringten Martin (152) all lost in the semifinals. Those three will wrestle in Saturday’s consolation matches and can finish no worse than sixth place.
Here’s a look at how the five semifinalists fared Friday:
Ethan Turner (Troy Christian)
Even though he came into the tournament as a returning state champion and a third-place finisher two years ago as a freshman, most wrestling experts had Turner projected as a state runner-up. Those whispers only intensified recently when he lost to Legacy Christian freshman Gavin Brown in last week’s district finals.
Saturday, he’ll get his chance to prove them wrong as he wrestles Brown for a state championship.
“They had me losing last year; they had me losing this year,” Turner said of internet prognosticators. “That’s all toilet paper material. You can read it and be entertained, but it doesn’t really mean anything.”
Turner has been dominant on his path to the finals, recording pins in all three matches, including two more Friday. In the morning quarterfinals, he pinned Newcomerstown’s Gavin Weaver in 2:56. In the semifinals, he pinned Oak Harbor’s Cameron Dickman in 4:03.
“After losing last week, I came into this tournament ready to go,” Turner said. “It definitely lit a fire in me. I wanted to come out and wrestle well and get that second state championship.”
To win another title, he’ll have to avenge last week’s loss to Brown — which is exactly how he hoped things would play out.
“Oh yeah, that’s the match I wanted,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of things I learned from last week I can use. Little things, really. There weren’t any major things. But last week was a definite eye-opener.”
Max Shore (Miami East)
Shore’s path to the state finals would have been tough for even the most seasoned wrestler, let alone a freshman making his first appearance at the state meet.
He showed the moment wasn’t too big for him, however, as he first knocked off a two-time state placer in the quarterfinals, dominating Nelsonville-York’s Collin Yinger — a two-time state placer — on his way to a 16-5 major decision victory. He followed that up in the semifinals with a 12-6 victory over returning state champion Casey Barnett of Milan Edison.
“They are the ones with all of the pressure on them,” Shore said. “I’m a freshman; there’s no pressure on me. My goal coming in was to place in the top four. I know I’ve trained hard, and I know I’ve worked hard. I knew I was ready for this. Now my goal is to come out and win it all.”
Shore will battle Coshocton’s Lucian Brink, a state runner-up last season, in Saturday’s title match.
Miami East coach Mark Rose said that all of the time Shore has spent competing in youth national tournaments is paying off at the state meet.
“This is a kid who has wrestled at national tournaments,” Rose said. “He’s been at tournaments with more mats than this. When he walked out there, he wasn’t intimidated by the size of it.”
Caleb Schroer (Troy Christian)
Schroer’s day started off easy enough, as he didn’t have to wrestle a match to get to the semifinals when an injury forced Oak Harbor’s Michael Judge to withdraw from the tournament, giving Schroer a default victory. In the semifinals, however, he was pinned by Delta’s Zack Mattin in 3:57.
Schroer, who was making his first trip to state, will wrestle Cuyahoga Heights’ Nolan Frye in the consolation semifinals Saturday. Schroer has assured himself a spot on the podium.
“It’s been great,” Schroer said of his first trip to state. “It’s been a great experience, even if that experience isn’t going to end exactly the way I wanted to. I had hoped to get to the finals. But I’ve just got to put that behind me and come out and wrestle better (Saturday).”
Cael Vanderhorst (Covington)
Vanderhorst found himself in a slugfest in the quarterfinals, defeating Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards 13-8 in a back-and-forth battle. In the semifinals, he ran into Brink, who was able to escape with a 3-1 victory over the Buccaneer.
In his first trip to state last year as a freshman, Vanderhorst placed eighth. He’s guaranteed to finish higher this season. He’ll wrestle Yinger Saturday in the consolation semifinals. Vanderhorst could finish the tournament as high as third, but no lower than sixth.
“I’ll finish higher than I did last year, but not as high as I had wanted to,” Vanderhorst said. “I’ve just got to be forgetful and not think too much about (the semifinal loss). I’ve got to come back (Saturday) and wrestle as well as I can.”
Keringten Martin (Covington)
Martin began his day with a 9-5 win over Mogadore’s Nick Skye in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, however, he dropped an 11-4 decision to Genoa Area’s Kevin Contos. Martin will wrestle in Saturday’s consolation semifinals against Swanton’s Ryan Marvin, the wrestler Martin defeated 9-5 in the first round of the tournament.
So far, it’s been an impressive run for Martin, who went 0-2 last year in his first trip to the state meet.
“It feels good,” Martin said. “It’s not as high as I want to be, though, and it’s not over yet. I still have matches, and I still have to wrestle. My goal was to be as high on the podium as I could, and I want to come back (Saturday) and do that. It’s just been an amazing experience so far. I want to enjoy every minute of it, because I know I’m close to the end.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong