The Miami Trace Panthers wrestling team won its fourth consecutive Sectional championship in decisive fashion Saturday, Feb. 26 at Washington High School.
The Panthers totalled 266 team points to 176 for host Washington.
Circleville placed third with 144 points and Fairfield Union was fourth with 126.5 points.
Logan Elm was fifth with 116 team points, followed by Unioto with 107.5, Hillsboro in seventh with 94, then Waverly with 75 and McClain with 59 team points.
The Panthers are sending almost 80 percent of their lineup — 11 out of 14 — to this Friday and Saturday’s District tournament at Gallia Academy High School.
The Panthers had 10 wrestlers qualify to the finals with nine emerging as Sectional champions.
Miami Trace’s Sectional champions for 2022 are: Lyric Dickerson, 106; Corbin Melvin, 120; Riston LeBeau, 132; Aiden Johnson, 138; Weston Melvin, 144; Vincent Munro, 165; Kylan Knapp, 175; Jayden LeBeau, 190 and Bryce Bennett, 215.
Asher LeBeau placed second at 150 pounds and Ethynn Munro was fourth at 157 pounds.
Here’s a look at the finals’ matches for each Panther Sectional champion:
Dickerson won his finals match by a 6-2 decision over Layton Vennon of Unioto.
Corbin Melvin beat Gavin Hoover of Logan Elm, 10-6.
Riston LeBeau pinned Austin Cottrell of Washington in 5:20.
Aiden Johnson won a 9-7 overtime decision against Gage Bolt of Circleville.
Weston Melvin pinned Griffin Sams of Unioto in 5:32.
Vincent Munro pinned Cameron Roberts of Hillsboro in 3:56.
Kylan Knapp pinned Unioto’s Matt Griffin in :46.
Jayden LeBeau recorded a 14-0 major decision over Davey Adkins of Waverly.
Bryce Bennett pinned Charles Souther of Washington in 1:18.
“Our coaching staff does feel really blessed to consistently have a lot of guys come out to our team,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Fondale said. “Put in the hours, put in the time, put in the effort. (Team members) are coachable, they’re good at setting goals and then working towards them.
“They are good at supporting each other,” Fondale said. “It’s not just coaches interacting with the wrestlers at practice, showing them technique or motivating them. We have a lot of good leadership. As a coaching staff, we’re really thankful for the upperclassmen. Not too long ago they were underclassmen.
“I look at my seniors now and time goes by so fast,” Fondale said. “They started out as freshmen and really they just kind of led by example. Now they are leading by example and their words and their committment. We are blessed to be consistently competitive at (the Sectional) level.”
Fondale spoke about some of the things he tells his team as they strive throughout the season to get into the position to make the postseason run towards the ultimate goal.
“The last couple of months, we’ve been talking to the kids about the season coming together, the season coming to a close,” Fondale said. “Our goal should be to win the District for the first time in about 40 years.”
The Panthers were seventh at the District last year, 10th in 2020, 10th in 2019, 14th in 2018, fourth in 2017 and 11th in 2016. Miami Trace was fifth in 2015 and third in 2014.
“The kids understand that they have to stay focused,” Fondale said. “And that that is a really achievable goal.
“Our seniors who made it to the Districts include Weston Melvin,” Fondale said. “He’s a returning State-qualifier and he’s looking to make it to the State tournament again.
“Bryce Bennett qualified to State last year,” Fondale said. Two seniors last season placed at State; Mcale Callahan placed eighth last year at state and Graham Carson placed fifth.
“At 175 we have Kylan Knapp,” Fondale said. “He’s been working hard all year to make it to the State tournament. At 190 we have Jayden LeBeau. The same goals go for him. He’s working toward the State tournament, as well.
“Those four seniors are Sectional champions,” Fondale said.
“We’ve set a goal to win (the District),” Fondale said. “We’re going to stay focused. We’re going to go into the tournament with confidence and resolve, understanding we also have some individual goals on the team.
“We’re looking for some of the underclassmen to step up and get us some team points at the very least,” Fondale said. “We’ve got guys who want to go to the State tournament for the first time. We have guys who want to be on the podium at State.
“If you’re a younger guy, a lot of times you just try to make it through the season,” Fondale said. “You worry about your record a little bit. Sometimes when you’re young you don’t set your goal as high as you should. We try to work with our freshmen and sophomores to help them understand that, if you put in the time and the work and you eat the same type of food as some of these top quality wrestlers do, there’s no reason you can’t make it to the State and be on the podium just like them.”