By David Fong
COLUMBUS — Graham Shore isn’t content with a slow and steady progression up the podium at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament.
After placing seventh last year as a freshman and third this year as a sophomore, Miami East’s 113-pound wrestler will only settle for one result at next year’s tournament.
“I’ll be on top of the podium next year,” Shore said after winning both of his consolation matches Saturday morning to finish in third place in Division III. “I’ll put in as much work as it takes. I’ll put my life on the line to win it next year. I’ll be pushing that extra step every day.”
Shore was one of five Miami County wrestlers to place in Friday morning’s consolation rounds. In Division III, Covington senior Ryan Ford (138 pounds) placed fourth, while Troy Christian’s Michael Sergent (120 pounds) and Alex Isbrandt (126 pounds) both placed seventh. In Division II, Tippecanoe’s Logan Ferrell (285 pounds) also placed seventh.
After dropping a heartbreaker in Friday night’s championship semifinals round, Shore rebounded to win both his matches Saturday morning. First he defeated Genoa Area’s Julian Sanchez — a wrestler he had lost to earlier in the season — 3-1 in the consolation semifinals. In the match for third place, he beat Apple Creek Waynesdale’s Christian Wellman, 4-3.
“This definitely feels good … it feels great,” Shore said of placing third. “To be able to come back after losing (Friday) definitely shows what kind of person I am. Everyone’s got obstacles they’ve got to overcome.”
Miami East coach Mark Rose said he has no doubts Shore will put in the necessary work to make a run at a state championship next season.
“He thinks he’s going to win — and that’s the way you have to be if you want to be an elite wrestler. You have to be willing to put in the work. You don’t have to be a year-round wrestler, but you have to wrestle year-round. Wrestling always has to at least be in the back of your mind at all times.”
* Ford closes career: One day, Ryan Ford will be able to sit pack and appreciate all he has accomplished in his storied wrestling career at Covington High School.
Saturday was not going to be that day, however. Saying a state title was his only goal going into this year’s state tournament, Ford was forced to settle for fourth place. After losing his championship semifinal match Friday, he rebounded Saturday morning, beating Smithville’s Riley Smucker 10-7 in the consolation semifinals.
In the match for third place, however, he was pinned by Mechanicsburg’s Tanner Smith in 2:40.
“I’m going to miss being around this environment,” an emotional Ford said after his match. “I’m going to miss my teammates and coaches.”
Perhaps not as much as they’ll miss him. He’ll graduate from Covington with 201 wins, a school record. He’ll also graduate as just the second wrestler in school history to place at least three times while wrestling at Covington (Andrew DeHart was a four-time state placer), having placed third as both a sophomore and junior.
“We’ll miss the work ethic he brought to this team,” Covington coach Tom Barbee said of Ford. “He wrestles all over the place. He’ll go to more practices after he leaves our practice. He’s been all over the place to wrestle. That transfers down to our younger kids. We’re going to miss that — in addition to all the points he scored for us.”
* Sergent happy to be back: After placing fourth in the state as a freshman, Troy Christian’s Sergent didn’t make it out of a loaded weight class at last year’s district tournament. He was able to be back and competing at this year’s state meet, placing seventh.
“It feels really good being back,” Sergent said. “Just being here and watching last year was really tough.”
Sergent made quick work of his lone opponent of the day, pinning St. Mary Central Catholic’s Cameron Gessner in just 19 seconds.
“It felt great to have my last match of my junior year and like that,” Sergent said. “It’s really encouraging to win like that going into next year. I’m going to train even harder for next year and try to make the state finals.”
* Isbrandt seventh again: After a series of close matches leading up to his seventh-place match Saturday morning — his previous four matches in the state tournament had been decided by a total of five points — Miami East’s Isbrandt wanted to leave no doubt about his final match at this year’s tournament.
“Every match was decided by one or two points,” he said. “It was a little frustrating. To win my last match like this feels great.”
In his final match against Bishop Ready’s Caleb Brooks, it looked like it was going to be another nailbiter, as the two were tied 0-0 with a little more than 30 seconds to to. That’s when Isbrandt sunk in a half nelson, turned Brooks and pinned him at 4:23.
“He got that half in tight,” Rose said.
For the second year in a row, Isbrandt placed seventh at the state meet, keeping him on track to become a four-time state placer.. Next year, however, he hopes to use the lessons he learned this year to move up the podium.
“I need to start out fast and keep going fast,” he said. “I don’t want to have to come from behind.”
* Ferrell places in first trip: Although he finished his wrestling career at Tippecanoe with a victory, it wasn’t exactly what Ferrell had been looking for.
“I was looking for one final match in a Tippecanoe singlet,” the senior said when his final opponent of the tournament forfeited the match, handing Ferrell a seventh-place victory. “I wanted to wrestle one more time. I didn’t even know until I got to the bullpen. They told me I was going to walk out and get my hand raised.”
Still, though, while he didn’t get to actually compete Saturday, Ferrell was pleased to place in his first trip to the state tournament.
“It feels great,” he said. “It makes all the hard work I put in worth it, whether it was throwing around a heavy bag or running stairs after practice.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong