By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Director
TROY — What could have been a bucket of water thrown on the powder keg that was the Troy Christian wrestling team turned out to be just the spark the Eagles needed to explode onto the state wrestling scene one year later.
In 2006, the Troy Christian wrestling program — in just its sixth year of existence — made an improbably run in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Division III state championships, finishing as the state runner-up to perennial state power Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic.
Going into the championship round on the third and final day of the competition, the Eagles were in position to capture the first team championship in school history. Ultimately, however, the Eagles dropped a pair of championship matches, allowing Sandusky St. Marys Central Catholic to squeak by, 89.5-79.0
Rather than crush the Eagles’ spirits, however, all that narrow loss seemed to do was serve as just the motivation the Eagles needed to reel off three straight Division III state championships from 2007-2009.
“We came up a little short, but we knew we were getting pretty much everybody back,” former Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy said. “We knew we were only going to get better. So we took two weeks off, then we got back at it and started training like crazy.”
Troy Christian’s rise to the top of the Division III state wrestling world was nothing short of meteoric. At the turn of the century, the Eagles — and the fledgling high school — didn’t even have a wrestling program. By 2006, the Eagles already were on the cusp of greatness.
“I think for us, (former Troy Christian assistant coach Randy Thome) had done a lot of the legwork,” Goudy said. “He had trained most of those kids growing up. I was still at Milton-Union and had trained some of the kids, but the foundation was built early with Randy working with those kids.”
By midway through the 2006 season, Troy Christian announced its presence on the state wrestling scene by defeating both Sandusky St. Mary CC and Marion Pleasant in dual matches.
“I think when we beat both of those teams in 2006, that’s when we started to realize maybe we had something special,” Goudy said. “That’s when things really clicked and we thought, ‘Hey, maybe we can win this thing.’ It wasn’t just the team that thought that. When we talked talked to the parents, they all kind of said the same thing — maybe we have the parts to make a run.”
The Eagles would make that run, but ultimately would fall short.
Ben Sergent (103 pounds) and Casey Thome (125) both would finish second in the state tournament that year, while Zach Toal (112) would finish third and Jordan Thome (119) and Zac Hancock (130) both would finish fifth.
The bad news was those five wrestlers couldn’t put together quite enough points to move the Eagles past Sandusky St. Mary — the good news was all five would return to Troy Christian for the 2007. Those five — along with three newcomers — would power the Eagles into state title contention once again the following season. In 2007, the Eagles took eight wrestlers to the state championships at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus — and all eight would end up placing.
As things would turn out, Troy Christian would need every single one of those eight state placers, as the Eagles narrowly edged out Marion Pleasant, 154-151.5, in the final team standings.
“We needed every single one of those kids to beat Marion Pleasant,” Goudy said. “Every kid contributed. It was a total team effort.”
Sergent (wrestling at 112) and Casey Thome (135) would avenge their championship losses from the year before, both capturing state titles. Toal (140), just a sophomore, would win the first of his three state titles that year. Hancock (125) and Robel Campbell (152) both would finish second. Jordan Thome (130) finished third. Cody Libengood (103) finished fifth and Chris Burns (145) finished seventh.
That state championship would be the first of three in a row for the Eagles. The Eagles also would add a state championship last season.
All of it started in 2006, however, with a crushing loss that did more good than harm.
“The kids really bounced back from that,” Goudy said. “I think to come that close and fall short made them work even harder.”
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong