CAMBRIDGE — Miami Trace had two significant changes in the program since the end of the 2014-2015 season.
A well-respected head coach (Jack Anders) stepped down to take on other roles in the program and a very talented group of seniors who won three SCOL, Division II SE Ohio Sectional, and McDonald’s Invitational titles has graduated.
The Panthers appeared to be in the process of rebuilding. It took little time for the new mentor of the wrestling team to establish himself as the architect of a new era of success. Ben Fondale and the Miami Trace Panther wrestling team have charged out of the gates with an impressive showing in the 18-team Cambridge Invitational. Miami Trace finished in second place with 177 points. New Lexington won the event with 216 points. Beaver Local was third with 167.5 points.
Miami Trace had 10 place winners at the event, led by 152-pound champion, Austin Lovett. The senior and returning SCOL Champion took care of Kole Kemppel of Wadsworth in the finals with a pin in 5:28 to go undefeated on the day. Lovett trailed in two of his matches but wound up winning them with strong finishes.
“We will focus on the importance of wrestling a full six minutes when we return to practice on Monday,” commented Fondale.
Placing second for Miami Trace was sophomore, Gavin Moore at 132 pounds. Moore reached the finals with a 4-3 decision over Gabe Gibson of Bloom Carroll before losing his finals bout to Andrew Spicer of New Lexington with an 8-3 decision.
“Spicer is a returning State qualifier and Gavin nearly had him pinned at one point in the match. Gavin is strong. He had a really good tournament, his best as a Miami Trace varsity wrestler to date,” Fondale said.
Placing third for the Panthers was senior 182 pound wrestler Matthew Hottinger. Hottinger captured his pool with three wins before losing a close bout to Tyler Kelly of Beaver Local by a 4-3 count in the semifinals. He then posted an injury default victory over New Lexington’s, Sam Allen to earn his third place medal.
“Matthew must work in building an early lead,” Fondale said. “He is very capable of taking kids down. He needs to push more and not hang on slim leads.”
Fourth place finishes were achieved by both Drake Litteral (145) and Jared Fenner (195). The pair won their respective pool with three wins before losing in the semifinals. They would also lose their consolation finals bout to finish in fourth place.
Fondale was still pleased with their efforts.
“Drake lost a really close match in the semifinals to a Wadsworth wrestler. He was ahead late in the match but lost a last-second takedown on the line. Jared wrestled behind Jeremiah Jones the past two years. He has won a lot of reserve tournaments. He is really solid this season.”
Coby Hughes (126), Derek Moore (138) and B.J. Anders (170) placed fifth for the Panthers. They each went 2-1 in their pool to take second and were then eligible to place as high as fifth in the consolation bracket.
They all rose to the occasion winning their final two matches. Litteral finished his day with two pins. This satisfied his coach who wants his wrestler to be more physical in his matches. Hughes tagged a pair of losses on his East Liverpool and Wadsworth opponents to complete his tournament run.
Anders lost in round three of the pool competition before recharging in the consolation rounds winning by a major decision and a pin over his Sheridan opponent to finish the day in fifth place.
Collin Wolffe made the varsity line up by winning a wrestle-off with returning SCOL champion and District qualifier, Skylar Morris. Wolffe took 8th place. The sophomore has athleticism but lacks the shear strength the upper level heavyweights possess. Wolffe and Morris will push each other throughout the season to improve steadily.
Wes Gandee (113), Jaymon Flaugher (126), and Jacob Tinkler (160), competed in the tournament but did not place. Gandee and Tinkler each had a win in their respective pool.
The Panther wrestling team is off to a good start. However, a laundry list of “needs improvement” was noted by the new program mentor.
“We want to let the kids know we are happy with them. They did things right and should have confidence. We do need to work on wrestling a full six minutes and being more physical. There are good things to come.”
The next meet for the Panthers wrestlers is the Jimmy Mac Duals at Bellefountaine High School Saturday.
Miami Trace won the event in 2014. New Lexington is scheduled to compete in what could be an interesting head-to-head competition.
TEAM SCORES – CAMBRIDGE INVITATIONAL
1. New Lexington (NL) 216.00
2. Miami Trace (MT) 177.00
3. Beaver Local (BVL) 167.50
4. Licking Valley (LV) 149.00
5. Northwest (NW) 147.50
6. West Holmes (WH) 132.50
7. East Liverpool (EL) 121.50
8. Cambridge (CAM) 121.00
9. Sheridan (SHE) 120.50
10. Wadsworth (WAD) 118.00
11. Minerva (MIN) 99.00
12. Bishop Ready (BR) 98.00
13. Morgan (MOR) 96.00
14. River View (RV) 89.00
15. Bloom Carroll (BC) 77.00
16. Belpre (BEL) 45.50
17. Euclid (EUC) 34.00
18. West Holmes X (WHX) 13.00