Van Wert senior Zack Thomas earned a berth in the state wrestling championships with a pin of Spencerville’s Logan Vandemark on Saturday in Troy. Thomas, advanced with a fourth-place finish at the district meet. (Times Bulletin/Larry Heiing)
By Larry Heiing
TROY — Area schools had 34 wrestlers advance to the district tournament held at Hobart Arena in Troy, with Wayne Trace leading the way with eight qualifiers. St. John’s had seven, with Jefferson, Spencerville and Columbus Grove five each, plus Lincolnview and Van Wert with two each.
It was a rough weekend for area squads as only four grapplers survived to enjoy the ride for another week.
George Clemens of Wayne Trace and St. John’s junior Wes Buettner both advance to the Division III state championships after performances Saturday.
Buettner began district competition with pins of Adam McCarrick of Baden and Johnny Dean from Northeastern. In the semifinals, Buettner lost the “go to state” match 5-4 to Ben Miller of Covington. After the disappointing loss, Buettner came back to defeat Jeff Botts from Bethel 7-3 to qualify for state at 170 pounds. The roller-coaster ride continued for Buettner. After the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory to make it to The Schott, he had to wrestle one more match. In the consolation-bracket finals, Buettner lost to second-seeded Brandon Breezley of Blanchester 12-2.
“I was excited and slightly relieved after qualifying for state, to see all the hard work all year around finally pay off,” Buettner said about his ride to state. “I want to wrestle smart and aggressively next weekend at The Schott. Hopefully if everything goes well, I will make it to the third day and be standing on the podium.”
The sophomore Clemens of Wayne Trace faced a similar path to the consolation finals, with a pin of Camron Coatney from Preble and a technical fall victory over Covington’s Connor Ryan to advance to the semifinals. In the go-to match, Clemens was pinned by Hunter Bray of Dayton Christian in 2:17.
Coming back strong to advance to the state tournament, Clemons defeated Justin Gibbs of Clinton-Massie 8-2. In the consolation finals, Clemons scored a 15-0 technical fall victory over Blanchester’s Kyle Denier to place third in the 106-pound bracket.
George’s father, Coach George Clemens, said he was excited about his wrestler’s performance and proud. “George worked hard in the off season, taking only one week off after his freshman year, practicing year around for this moment. He lost to the projected state champion, Hunter Bray here at districts; hopefully he will get another shot at him next weekend.”
Wayne Trace’s other state qualifier was 145-pound Tyler Showalter. Tyler only had a record of 13-1 entering district competition due to injuries, but quickly made his presence known at Hobart Arena. In his first match, he scored a major decision over Justis Brewer of Preble 15-4, then pinned National’s Austin Moore in 3:12 to move onto the semifinals.
Eventual champion Logan Lacure pinned Showalter in 1:02 to drop him down to the consolation bracket. There, he defeated Marcus Hummel of Dayton-Christian 17-9 to qualify for the state tournament. Coach Clemens and Showalter decided to forfeit his final match to avoid further injury to earn fourth-place honors in the 145-pounders.
“Tyler hurt his knee during the football playoffs on the hard turf, and came back for one match around Christmas and injured it again,” explained Clemens. “For Tyler to be in this situation after only 15 practices in pretty remarkable.”
The final area qualifier for the state wrestling meet to be held next Thursday, Friday and Saturday was 285-pound senior Zack Thomas from Van Wert High School.
Thomas also started out strong, with a pin of Seth Douglas from wrestling powerhouse Troy Christian in 2:54. He then suffered a pin from Medira’s Nick Gelhaus to enter the consolation pairings, where he faced Spencerville’s sectional champion Logan Vandemark.
Thomas finally earned a pin of Vandemark in the third period to advance to a rematch with Gelhaus. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same as the first with Gelhaus earning a 9-2 victory and Thomas finished in fourth place.
The challenge was not quite over for Vandemark, as he had to recover from the disappointment of not qualifying for the state tournament to compose himself to compete in one more match for fifth place. He quickly pinned Austin King from Reading to qualify as an alternate.
Jefferson senior Tanner Vermule also qualified as an alternate for state with an 11-4 victory over Marcus Hummel, who defeated Vermule earlier in the first round.
Vermule then won three straight consolation matches before being defeated by Showalter. Vermule finishes the season with a record of 38-13, unless a wrestler that qualified to state is unable to go.
St. John’s coach Derek Sterling had to say good-bye to a pair a senior wrestlers, Austin Martin and Nate Schroeder, after they were eliminated on Saturday.
Schroeder was sectional runner-up and ends with a 26-12 record this year.
Martin won the LCC sectional championship and placed sixth at districts with a 35-13 record.
In addition to Vermule, Jefferson head coach Mike Wilson will be without Dustin McConnahea (22-14) on his squad next season. The senior lost his first match on Friday night, but came back with three big wins before falling to Mike McKinney and ended his Wildcat career in sixth place at districts.
Spencerville’s Zac Clum is also losing a veteran on his Bearcat squad, Trevor Bockey, leaving with a 28-12 record this season and was sectional runner-up.
Columbus Grove is graduating four wrestlers that participated at districts and did not advance: Will Selhorst, Brett Sampson, Tyler Schroder and Alec Gladwell.
Doug Hicks (37-13) will be leaving Lincolnview and Gabe Hill (32-17) wrestled his last match for Van Wert.