By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — With so much of the season left to go, everyone is looking for things they need to fix, adjustments that must be made still.
While looking for those areas to improve on, though, Miami East, Troy Christian and Tippecanoe all still found plenty to like about the way they are wrestling now.
Miami East finished second overall at Saturday’s Red Devil Invitational at Tippecanoe High School, scoring 244 points to champion Mason’s 275 and claiming four individual championships along the way. The Eagles finished right behind the Vikings in third with 213.5 points and won one title, while the host Red Devils finished sixth with 163.5 points and claimed a pair of titles.
* A Look Ahead
Miami East’s goals all involve the postseason.
Saturday, a lot of Vikings got a look ahead at some of the competition they’ll see come February.
Graham Shore (120) and Daniel Everett (182) both had head-to-head championship matches in the final round against opponents from Troy Christian, which will be one of East’s primary adversaries come Division III sectional tournament time. Both picked up victories, as well, adding their individual titles to the ones that Alex Isbrandt (126) and Ben Ferguson (285) collected on the day.
“It’s nice seeing people that we’re going to see at sectional,” Miami East coach Mark Rose said. “We might not see some of these teams again until then, so it’s good to get a look at them now, to see what we’ve got to expect later and what we need to work on.”
One of the highlight matches on the day was Shore against Troy Christian’s Michael Sergent in a matchup of state-caliber athletes. Shore was able to grab an early lead, though, and control the action the rest of the way for an 8-4 win.
“It feels great,” said Shore, who placed seventh at state last year along with teammate Isbrandt. “I was wrestling up a weight this week, and I was up against Sergent, who is one of the best kids around. I knew I’d wrestle my best match, and I did.”
“Graham wrestled outstanding this weekend,” Rose said. “He’s got an incredible motor and a pounding style that’s hard to keep up with. He’s fun to watch.”
At 182, Everett took on the Eagles’ Damon Beatty, again taking control early and pulling away for an 11-3 major decision. And at 126, Isbrandt posted a 13-2 major decision over Fairborn’s A.J. Warner to win.
For Ferguson, who pinned Ben Logan’s Dalton McCurdy in a mere 37 seconds in the title match, the highlight bout came in pool competition against Tippecanoe’s Logan Ferrell. Ferguson, who placed eighth at state last season in D-III, fought hard for a narrow 4-3 victory in that match.
“The Ferrell kid comes in ranked ninth in the state in D-II but through some snafu doesn’t get seeded here, and he’s in Ben’s pool. That’s a state-caliber match — and that’s exactly what we want,” Rose said. “Then he had Troy Christian’s Douglas, the No. 3 seed, in the semis. We faced some adversity today, and we came out well.”
It wasn’t the first time Ferguson and Ferrell have faced off. Though they didn’t wrestle each other last season, as sophomores they split a pair of matches.
Zane Strubler (132) and Cody Nickels (138) placed third, Matt Welker (170) placed fourth, Caden Hellyer (220) placed fifth and Michael Miller (152) placed sixth.
“Honestly, we were hoping to do a little better,” Rose said. “We took some losses we didn’t want to take, had a couple not go our way. But even with that, we overcame adversity and got some team points and got guys on the podium. Overall, I was pleased that the team wrestled well. I’m proud of the whole team.
“We’ve been working hard, and we’ve got a heck of a stretch of matches coming up. Wednesday, we dual Mechanicsburg, which is No. 3 in the state, and Covington, which is No. 10. And after that, we go to Medina. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
* Going Out On Top
Last year, Tippecanoe’s Jack Peura (160) used a loss at the Red Devil Invitational to fuel his way to a sixth-place finish at state.
“He and teammate Gabe Callicoat, now our middle school assistant coach, wrestled in the finals, and that’s the only time Jack’s lost in this tournament,” Tippecanoe coach Nick Petro said. “But a loss this early can help you in later parts of the season, and that’s kind of what happened last year. It made him realize he needed to get better, so he did.”
This year, Peura didn’t need the added motivation.
The senior tore through the competition, defeating Mason’s Cole Tibbs in the title match with a 17-2 tech. fall to claim his third career Red Devil Invitational championship, one of two individual title the Devils won on Saturday.
“I got beat last year, so I was ready to come back and do well,” Peura said. “It feels good, but I know I’ve still got a lot to work on. The competition is only going to get better, but I did the things I needed to do over the summer so everything is looking good right now. I just need to keep working.”
Peura was joined atop the podium by sophomore Caleb Blake (145), who defeated Mason’s Tanner Cibula 8-3 in the finals to win an individual title, as well.
Russell Ramsey (113) and Grant Carlson (220) placed fourth, Logan Ferrell (285) and John Erhard (106) placed fifth and Tanner Moyer (170) placed sixth.
“We wrestled very well today,” Petro said. “We accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish, and we made tremendous strides in preparing for the later parts of the season. We wanted to see how the guys reacted to an intense environment. We made adjustments, and we’ll be making more adjustments we need to make going into the (GMVWA) Holiday (Tournament) in two weeks.”
* Work To Do
Troy Christian coach Steve Goudy isn’t worried about how hard his Eagles are wrestling.
But he wants to see them thinking more and reacting better while they do it.
The Eagles had seven placers Saturday, but with only one individual champion as Jacob Edwards (106) defeated Ben Logan’s Cole Houser with a 12-4 major decision in the championship round. It was the lone match the Eagles won in the finals, though, as they had four runner-up finishes and a pair of fourth-place finishes.
“I thought our effort was better today than it was last weekend. We’re just not wrestling smart yet,” Goudy said. “We’re making mistakes that I have to correct. We’re taking mental breaks in matches, and that can’t happen.”
Drew Staley (113), Michael Sergent (120), Jordan Strine (170) and Damon Beatty (182) all placed second on the day, while Levi Sims (195) and Seth Douglas (285) both placed fourth.
And while early in the season is a preferable time to find mistakes, with time left to correct them, rather than in the postseason when it’s too late to fix, Goudy has a different philosophy.
“I’d just as soon they didn’t come out now. I’d just as soon they didn’t come out period,” he said with a laugh. “But we’ll get better. I wasn’t disappointed in the effort the kids gave today. I was just disappointed in some of the outcomes.”
Tippecanoe and Troy Christian will both compete in the GMVWA Holiday Tournament Dec. 28-29 at the Nutter Center.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.