The Miami Trace wrestling team entered their home tournament this past Saturday with two goals in mind.
The first was to see improvement in their wrestlers and the second was to win it. They accomplished both in impressive fashion.
It was apparent from the first whistle that Miami Trace came out ready to compete at the 27th annual McDonald’s/Miami Trace Invitational Wrestling Tournament. The result was a convincing championship day to cap off a great week for the local wrestlers. On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Miami Trace earned its way to yet another Regional appearance in the State Duals by defeating Unioto and Clinton-Massie.
Powered by a consistent effort from all 14 wrestlers, Miami Trace gained momentum early with key wins over opponents with higher seeds. Six Panthers would reach the finals in the 14-team event. They would eventually crown four champions. Logan Elm would have three champions and Circleville and Monroe Central two each.
Top seeded 152-pound Austin Lovett made good on his lofty expectation by pinning his way into the finals. Coby Hughes (126), Gavin Moore (132), Matthew Hottinger (182), Jared Fenner (195), and Colin Wolffe (285) all had to defeat higher seeded wrestlers in route to their final’s appearance.
Hughes, a pre-tournament third seed, was the first of the six Miami Trace wrestlers to compete for a title Saturday evening. The sophomore had defeated the No. 2 seed Tyler Matthews of Circleville in the semifinals with a convincing 11-0 major decision.
Top seed Alex Holt of Montgomery County, Kentucky came to the finals with an eye-opening 29-1 record. Hughes scored early and often from the feet and then put excellent pin pressure on his opponent to record the fall in 3:54 of the second period.
First-year head coach Ben Fondale liked the improvement he saw in his young wrestler.
“Coby has been consistently getting second place this season,” Fondale said. “We knew that eventually he would have to defeat good kids. This is a turning point for him.”
Right after Hughes’ hand was raised in victory, Gavin Moore, Miami Trace’s 132-pound sophomore, trotted out on to mat one. Moore entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed. His track into the finals included an 8-0 major decision over No. 1 seed, Ethan Tefs of Cincinnati Wyoming in the semis.
Another major decision, this time by a 9-1 score, would be earned with a very smartly wrestled match over No. 3 seed Jonas Proffitt of Westfall to give Moore his first tournament title of the season. Moore stayed on the attack early to gain a lead and then wisely did not put himself in jeopardy by attempting risky moves throughout the waning moments securing the win.
“Gavin has been in the same situation as Hughes. He turned the corner today and had a really good tournament,” commented Fondale.
Austin Lovett, one of only two seniors competing for the Panthers, pummeled his first two opponents by pin. A fall at the 1:54 mark in the semifinals over Zach VanFossen of Wyoming would pair him against Justin Butcher of Westfall in the finals.
Lovett was both technically and physically superior in this match winning with a 15-6 major decision for his first McDonald’s/Miami Trace title. Coach Fondale related why he thought Lovett achieved such success. “He put constant pressure on his opponent and forced him to take bad shots.”
The 182-pound weight class was one of the toughest of the tournament.
Matthew Hottinger, the No. 4 seeded senior, got a big win in the semifinals by defeating the No. 1 seed, Colten Miller, of Montgomery County in an exciting 6-4 overtime win.
Hottinger went on the attack in overtime securing a deep double leg takedown to push him into the finals. Another veteran grappler awaited in William Nibert of Greenville. The same attack style that served Hottinger so well in the semis was adeptly defended by Nibert as he countered with a throw to the back to gain a lead he never relinquished. Hottinger would lose a hard-fought 7-2 decision to finish in second place.
“Matthew has intensity,” said Fondale. “He struggled with that earlier in the season but he really brought it today. We ran at him and got tossed. It happens. We’ll learn from it.”
Jared Fenner came in as a No. 3 seed. He exited with little doubt that was not an appropriate placement. The junior upset No. 2 seed Cam Redman of Circleville in the semifinals holding on for an 8-7 win.
He would face yet another Pickaway County wrestler in the finals. Number one seed Nick Vagnier of Logan Elm had pinned his way into the finals. Miami Trace again showed how its wrestlers are improving steadily as Fenner was very capable on the feet defending single leg attacks and countering with hip pressure and spin behind moves to secure takedowns. The end result was a 7-2 decision.
“Jared has won some tournaments already,” said Fondale. “He keeps pressure on his opponents very well.”
The last of the six Miami Trace wrestlers to reach the finals was sophomore Colin Wolffe. He pinned his first two opponents on the day.
In his second match he defeated No. 2 seed Logan Johnson of Montgomery County by pin to reach the finals. His opponent would be Justin Kilburn, a returning Division III State Tournament alternate from Monroe Central (located about 30 miles south of Wheeling, West Virginia on the Ohio side).
Wolffe stands about 6’4” while Kilburn is much more squat in stature rising to about 5’9”. Wolffe had been able to utilize the advantage of leverage in his earlier matches. Kilburn would be just too strong for the young Panther. Wolffe was the aggressor but found himself in a tough predicament getting thrown to his back and pinned at the :47 mark. A runner-up finish at this event for a sophomore upper weight is still a very nice accomplishment.
Also placing for Miami Trace were Timmy Chaney, 5th at 106; Jaymon Flougher, 4th at 120; Derek Moore, 4th at 138; Drake Litteral, 4th at 145; and Dalton Bartley, 5th at 220.
Miami Trace has dominated this tournament throughout the years. It has won or taken second more than 20 times in the tournament’s 27-year history. The new coach of the program who hails from New Lexington, Ohio, is still very aware of why the Panthers have put together such consistent success at the McDonald’s/Miami Trace Invitational.
“This is a late in the season tournament. We talk a lot about late season peaks. This may not be our toughest tournament of the season but all those hard early season tournaments help our wrestlers to be well prepared. I am proud of our wrestlers. This was one of our best efforts. It should be that way. We are heading into league and Sectionals time,” observed coach Fondale.
The end of season push begins immediately.
Miami Trace will head to Western Brown High School for the Regional Duals. The start time is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The winner of the four teams entered will advance to the State Dual Meet Championships held at St. John’s Arena on the campus of The Ohio State University. They meet first with league and county rival, Washington. The winner advances to face the winner of Western Brown/New Richmond match.
Later in the week the annual SCOL Wrestling Tournament will be held at East Clinton High School on Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.
“We have momentum. We must have a strong practice and let our kids know what we are up against. We may have beaten Washington in a dual recently but we definitely are not taking them lightly. If we win, we would most likely face Western Brown who is one of the best teams we have seen all year.”
For more information about this year’s McDonald’s/Miami Trace Wrestling Tournament and the Top 75 Greatest, go on-line and visit Baumspage (wrestling) and click on Miami Trace McDonald’s Invitational.
Friend of the Sport – A long standing tradition during the McDonald’s/Miami Trace Tournament finals is to recognize a “Friend of the Sport.” The 2016 recipient is Matt Barga. The Miami Trace High School guidance counselor came to Miami Trace in 1987 upon graduating from Miami University. He taught math, coached junior high football and wrestling and has been an avid supporter of the Panther wrestlers by assisting each year with the tournament and attending matches. He is married to Allison Barga. They have two sons, Ethan and Conner.
First Time A Charm – The Monroe Central Seminoles entered the tournament for the first time. They are one of three high schools in the Switzerland of Ohio School District located in Monroe County on the eastern edge of Ohio. It is the largest land area district in the state of Ohio encompassing just over 500 square miles. Miami Trace has 406 square miles of district. Monroe Central brought three wrestlers. Of the three, 220 pound Tanner Potts and 285 pound Justin Kilburn conquered the competition winning their respective weight classes.
Battling Brothers – The Dettwiller brothers, Adam and younger (and bigger!) brother, Phillip, brought their teams to the McDonald’s/Miami Trace Invitational. They are graduates of Greenfield McClain High School. Adam leads the Unioto Shermans while Phillip guides the Montgomery County Indians. The teams placed 9th and 10th on the leader board. It was younger brother, Phillip, who got the upper hand this year with his Montgomery County team scoring 87 points to 64.5 points for Adam’s Unioto team. Adam did get the call on a rules interpretation matter when his 132 pound wrestler was awarded third place over his Montgomery County opponent due to “criteria” cited in the National Federation of Wrestling Rule Book.
Total Team Effort – Hosting a first-rate wrestling tournament requires the assistance of a great many persons. A hearty thanks is offered to our sponsor, Nick Epifano, and the local McDonald’s restaurants. The tournament committee, table workers, athletic boosters, custodians, referees, athletic administration, athletic trainer, set up and removal crew, hospitality room providers and workers, among many others truly make this event special.
Miami Trace 216
Logan Elm 140
Montgomery County 87
Monroe Central 54
106- Chase Watts (Logan Elm)
113- Nate Keaton (Circleville)
120- Isaac Bennett (Logan Elm)
126- Coby Hughes (Miami Trace)
132- Gavin Moore (Miami Trace)
138-Greg Brewer (Circleville)
145- Nick Lawhorn (Chillicothe)
152- Austin Lovett (Miami Trace)
160- Justin Shields (Wyoming)
170- Micah Linton (Circleville)
182- William Nibert (Greenville)
McDonald’s/Miami Trace Team Champions:
1990- Miami Trace
1991- Miami Trace
1992- Miami Trace
1993- Miami Trace
1995- Miami Trace
1996- Miami Trace
1997- Miami Trace
1998- Miami Trace
1999- Miami Trace
2000- Miami Trace
*2003- Madison Plains
2005- Miami Trace
2006- Miami Trace
2007- Miami Trace
2008- Miami Trace
2011- Miami Trace
2015- Miami Trace
2016- Miami Trace
*Denotes Miami Trace as Runner-Up at the event.