Panthers win 5th straight Sectional title


GALLIPOLIS — The Miami Trace Panthers wrestling team had another in a series of outstanding performances Saturday, Feb. 25 at the 2023 Division II Sectional tournament held this year at Gallia Academy High School after being held at Washington High School for the last several years.

Miami Trace scored a total of 237.5 team points, with a comfortable distance between the Panthers and the second place River Valley Raiders from Bidwell (189.5).

The Washington Blue Lions placed third with 152 team points and Warren was fourth with 139.5 team points.

Also from the Frontier Athletic Conference, Jackson was fifth with a 121 team score and McClain was ninth with 41.5 points.

In the other Sectional tournament, held concurrently at Gallia Academy, Hillsboro placed tied for fifth with Circleville, both with 138 team points.

Chillicothe placed seventh with 96 team points.

New Lexington won that Sectional title with 190 points, with Logan Elm taking second with 179.5 points and Athens in third with 154 points.

Miami Trace had five Sectional champions and a total of 11 District qualifiers.

Sectional champions are: Lyric Dickerson, 106; Will Enochs, 113; Corbin Melvin, 132; Aiden Johnson, 138 and Asher LeBeau, 150.

Four Panthers — Brice Perkins, 126; Ethynn Munro, 157; Landon St. Clair, 165 and Stephen Lehr, 175 — placed second.

Riston LeBeau placed third at 144 pounds and Evan Mollett was fourth at 190 pounds.

The Panthers have one District alternate — Evan Mullen placed fifth at 120 pounds.

Dickerson went 3-0 at the Sectional.

He began with a pin of Memphis Robinson of River Valley in :31.

In the semifinals, Dickerson pinned Brayden Warner of Washington in :21.

Dickerson won a 4-0 decision over Unioto’s Layton Vennon in the finals.

Will Enochs went 2-0 with a bye in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Enochs pinned Kolton Baker of Jackson in :22.

In the finals, Enochs pinned Evan Houck of Gallia Academy at 1:58.

Corbin Melvin went 3-0 in the Sectional.

He began with a pin of Washington’s Gavin Huff in :55.

Melvin then pinned Fairfield Union’s Jacob Egger in 1:36.

In the championship match, Melvin earned a 3-2 decision over Marciellos Coste of Unioto.

Aiden Johnson went 2-0, with a bye in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Johnson pinned Shane Shadley of Jackson in 1:15.

In the championship, Johnson pinned Coalton Flowers of River Valley in 2:59.

Asher LeBeau went 2-0 with a bye in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, LeBeau pinned Tanner Young of River Valley in 3:53.

LeBeau won the championship with a 9-3 decision over Washington’s Malachi McCullough.

“I feel really blessed and I think our coaching staff feels really blessed to have such hard workers,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Fondale said. “We’ve always had pretty good leadership from our seniors and this year is no exception.

“Last year’s seniors left this year’s seniors in good hands,” Fondale said. “They (this year’s seniors) learned from them (last year’s seniors). They continue to lead in practice and set a good example. All the underclassmen hold the seniors in high regard.

“They help keep a strong culture of hard work, expecting to win, expecting to succeed — doing things right and trusting the process,” Fondale said.

The wrestling season is a grueling gauntlet of drilling, training, practicing, matches with multiple cycles of competing with sites set on peaking in performance as the season begins its inevitable climb through the conference, Sectional and District tournaments and finally, the ultimate goal, reaching the State tournament.

“It’s a long season,” Fondale said. “It’s about a four-month season. You just have to put your hours in. There are long nights and long days with a lot of sacrifice along the way.”

The sacrificing is part of self-fulfilment. Everyone sacrifices and sees everyone around them doing the same. It engenders a closeness and a bond perhaps at a different level than other sports.

“It makes it a joy and it makes it easier to coach kids who are willing to trust the process,” Fondale said. “To put in the time and put in the energy. They feel like they will be rewarded at a later date. The Sectionals was one of the rewards they got, but, they’re not finished.

“They wrestled well at Sectionals,” Fondale said. “We’re probably wrestling the best we’ve wrestled all year. That’s the whole point, to be at highest ability at this point in the season.”

There are no new moves or strategies to employ at this stage of the season.

“This week in practice we’re just going to stress to everyone on our team to just focus on the things that have been working for them all year,” Fondale said. “Just take the best of your matches all year; just focus on what’s been working for them all year.”

Wrestling starts at 3 p.m. Friday at Steubenville High School in Jefferson County nestled along the Ohio River across from West Virginia.

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