By David Fong
TROY — Doug Curnes knows there’s no better way to kick off the new year than to pick a fight.
That’s why the Troy wrestling coach has invited 13 other teams to Saturday’s Troy Invitational wrestling tournament, hoping to find some of the best competition in the area. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Trojan Activities Center, with the finals expected to begin around 5 p.m.
“We love having this tournament right after the new year — it’s a good time to have it,” Curnes said. “Everyone is coming back off of break and everyone is kind of in the same position. We want everyone to come in here ready to go. Our kids will be ready.”
A total of 14 teams from around the Dayton and Cincinnati areas will be competing in the tournament, including: Troy, defending Troy Invitational champion Miami East, Covington, Cincinnati St. Xavier, Cincinnati Harrison, Wayne, Greenville, Coldwater, Arcanum and Wayne Trace.
“We’ve got a good group of teams coming in,” Curnes said. “We have a few Cincinnati teams coming in, which gives things a little different flavor. I like to bring in some new guys so that we aren’t always wrestling the same kids we see at other tournaments. St. X is always solid — they’ve always got a few state placers. I know Wayne Trace has got a couple of hammers. Miami East won it last year, and I would have to think they would be the projected favorites again this year.”
One of the things that separates the Troy Invitational from other area tournaments during the regular season, Curnes said, was the fact it brings in Division I, Division II and Division III teams, giving individual wrestlers a variety of talent to face.
“A lot of the other tournaments in Dayton tend to focus more on one division,” he said. “We are an equal-opportunity invitational — I like the diversity of divisions we bring in for this tournament. A lot of these smaller schools like Miami East and C0vington and Coldwater have multiple-time state placers on their roster year after year. This invitational brings good competition to individual wrestlers. A good kid is a good kid — I don’t care what Division he’s wrestling.”
Miami East competed last week at the Medina Invitational, where three-time state placer Graham Shore (120 pounds) captured an individual title. Alex Isbrandt (138), also a three-time state placer, took second. Brenden Dalton (220) placed seventh, while Zane Strubler (145) and Olivia Shore (106) placed eighth. Olivia Shore became the first female competitor in the history of the tournament ever to reach the podium.
Covington and Troy, meanwhile, competed last week at the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament. Covington’s Kellan Anderson (106) placed second, while Cael Vanderhorst (113) placed seventh. Troy’s Joe Pascale (126) placed third.
“Our lineup is starting to shape up, ” Curnes said. “We’ve got some guys who are starting to settle in at their best weights. We’ve still got some guys who are going to be moving around some and probably won’t have our best lineup until mid-January, but we are pretty happy with how things are going right now.”
Curnes said he enjoys the opportunity to have his team host the invitational, which has been going on for more than 40 years.
“It’s definitely a lot of work — I don’t know what I’m going to do when (Troy wrestling booster parent) Kris Pascale leaves after this year — but it’s definitely worth it,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of wrestling parents who allow me to focus on coaching the kids. It’s good for the town and it brings in a lot of money that allows us to do things with our kids.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong