By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Miami East’s Alex Isbrandt and Covington’s Ryan Ford both put their previous experience to good use.
Covington’s Brandon Magee found out the importance of being a state alternate.
And after the first day of competition at the Division III state wrestling tournament Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, a pair of Miami East and Troy Christian wrestlers and Covington’s Ford are still in the hunt for championships, while a host of others will try to fight their way back in the consolation rounds.
* Vikings Advance
Even after falling behind 3-0, Miami East’s Alex Isbrandt (126) didn’t stop fighting.
Trailing by one point in the closing seconds, that paid off.
Isbrandt scored two near-fall points with only two seconds left in the match, grabbing a thrilling 4-3 victory in his first-round match over Steubenville Catholic’s Luke Coniker to advance to Friday’s championship quarterfinals along with teammate Graham Shore (113).
“It was 3-0 in the middle of the second period, then I got a reversal in the third, caught him in a cradle and turned him for a two-count with two seconds left,” Isbrandt said. “It feels pretty good.”
It’s not an unfamiliar feeling for Isbrandt, who placed seventh at state last season. And those wins last year helped keep him in the match mentally even when behind.
“You’ve just got to keep believing that you can come back and win it,” Isbrandt said. “It (last year’s experience) did help a little, yeah. You just can’t stop fighting.”
Shore, meanwhile, kept the drama out of his first-round match, routing Nelsonville-York’s Cody Welch with a 19-2 tech. fall. The sophomore — who came in as a district champion this season after beating a nationally-ranked opponent en route to that title — said that experience both gave him confidence and kept him focused.
“It just gives the tournament a whole different feel, coming in as a No. 1,” Shore said after going in as a No. 3 seed last year. “You’re coming in as one of the top guys instead of the underdog. Winning last week showed me I could beat anyone on any given day, but I also knew I couldn’t take anyone lightly.
“I know I’ve got a target on my back for some people, sure. But you’ve got to bring it here. I knew going in that if I was wrestling my match, he couldn’t beat me. It’s good to get those first-match jitters out.”
“Graham was dominant,” Miami East coach Mark Rose said. “He looked good. His motor was running. To get a tech. fall at state, that’s saying something. And Alex pulls one out by the skin of his teeth, gets a two-count in the last two seconds.”
Ben Ferguson (285) and Zane Strubler (132) had a tougher time. Ferguson, a No. 3 seed out of his district, lost via a narrow 4-3 decision to Oak Harbor’s Brandon Garber, while Strubler was defeated 9-3 by district champion Stan Bleich from Elyria Catholic.
“I was just trying to push the pace, get him moving and maybe get a quick scramble for a takedown,” Ferguson said of the end of his match, where both wrestlers were in neutral position. “Last year, I won my first match, dropped the second and fought back to place eighth. Now I’ve just got to stay focused and keep my mind right, not let it get to me and fight back to get third.”
Strubler lost his consolation match Thursday night 6-2 to Caldwell’s Kolby Rayner and was eliminated, while Ferguson won 8-4 against Orwell Grand Valley’s Austin Mathis to stay alive.
“I feel like I went hard,” Strubler said. “I’ve wrestled in big tournaments before, but this one is just kind of overwhelming. I’ve been training for this my whole life.”
“Ben fought hard, Zane fought hard,” Rose said. “A loss in the first round doesn’t kill you. It just makes your road harder. Hopefully we can get (the guys) back tomorrow and put some points on the board.”
* 2-0 Eagles
Troy Christian’s Jacob Edwards (106) and Michael Sergent (120) both qualified to the state tournament as freshman.
And both the junior Sergent and sophomore Edwards coasted through the first round with ease this year, with Edwards pinning Milan Edison’s Dylan Burns at 1:16 and Sergent putting away an 8-1 decision over Galion Northmor’s Griffin Jenkins.
“I wrestled him twice earlier this year, so I was confident,” Edwards said. “I knew coming in it would be a good match, but I took him down early and didn’t let him up.”
Edwards went 1-2 at the state tournament last year, so scoring a pin in his first match was big.
“It definitely felt good (to win by pin),” Edwards said. “Being on the big stage with everyone watching you, you want to go out and execute — and I did. I went 1-2 as the smallest 106 here last year, so being a little bigger, yeah, I want to win it all.”
Sergent, meanwhile, did not qualify for state as a sophomore — and that gave him extra motivation to perform once back on the big stage.
“It feels rejuvenating,” he said. “Last year, our district was really tough. All four of the guys that placed at our district ended up placing at state. This year, I’m making up for last year.
“It was rough, not being able to go, but getting it back together and getting a win here feels great. I want to place, get top eight, and I’m wrestling Delta’s returning state champ Drew Mattin next. He’ll be a tough opponent.”
* Focused Ford
Covington senior Ryan Ford found out the cost of looking ahead last year.
He wasn’t about to do it again.
Ford (138) dismantled his first-round opponent Thursday, defeating Galion Northmor’s Jake Farley with a 15-5 major decision to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round and keep his state championship dream alive.
“Last year, I lost in the first round,” Ford said. “I gave up an 8-4 lead and got caught in the last minute. I had placed third the year before, so I may have been overconfident. I was looking forward to my finals match instead of staying focused. I got caught on my toes, and I had to fight back for third place.
“It was good for preparing me for this year’s tournament. My goal my whole life has been to win this tournament. Everyone has told me to take it one match at a time, and after last year, I’ve taken that to heart.”
“Ryan was coasting a little last year,” Covington coach Tom Barbee said. “We talked to him about it all this week, staying focused and being determined and not to be thinking ahead. Ryan is obviously focused this year. It’s his last go-around, and he’s definitely motivated.”
Ford had been Covington’s only state qualifier from last week’s district tournament — but alternate Brandon Magee (182) was able to get in and compete on Thursday.
“Watching the weigh-in this morning, that was the most nerve-wracking part,” Magee said. “It was disappointing not qualifying, and hands down it was more nerve-wracking waiting to see if I’d get in instead of actually competing.”
And though Magee, who took a district runner-up’s spot in the bracket, lost in the first round 9-1 to Andover Pymatuning Valley’s Gaige Willis, just being able to compete on the state stage was worth it.
“It was mind-blowing,” Magee said. “Covington has never had an alternate make it, but the school always brings them with us when we have them. A lot of schools don’t do that. It was a huge change, thinking my senior year was over a week ago and then turning around and finding out I had a second chance.”
In the consolation round against Coshocton’s Jeremy Bresciani, Magee pinned his opponent in 2:16 to stay alive.
* Disappointed ‘Dogs
Milton-Union’s Kamron Paulus (132) and Chase Mayabb (145) both dropped their first-round matches on Thursday, a disappointing start to the state tournament after a phenomenal season for the Bulldogs — one that included a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship.
“We knew going into the season the capabilities that this team had,” Milton-Union coach Art Ratcliffe said. “So to get shut out in the first round here was devastating.”
Paulus, a junior, lost 7-3 to Wooster Triway’s Michael Yacapraro, while senior Mayabb lost 5-3 to Mogadore’s Josh Tompkins.
“This is my third year here, and I’ve been two and out both years before this,” Paulus said. “It’s just the different atmosphere, and it’s something I’ve got to overcome. Every year, I say I’m going to work harder for the next year. I need to apply it more. I’ve only got one year left after this, so I’ve got to make it happen.”
“Kam is the type of kid that maybe thinks too much,” Ratcliffe said. “We’re going to get him settled down and wrestling the way that got him here. And Chase, there’s a lot of emotions that go on, being your last year.”
Paulus won his consolation match with a 9-1 major decision over Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic’s Jadon Dix and remains alive for Friday’s competition, while Mayabb was defeated 8-1 by Genoa Area’s Adam Bates and was eliminated.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.