By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — It’s not hard to find the comeback story of the year in Miami County this season — probably because there are two of them.
The Bethel girls and Tippecanoe boys basketball teams both were left for dead — but both have seen a resurgence this season under coaches Mark Mays and Joel Visser, respectively.
Mays’ reclamation project at Bethel is several years in the making. Prior to his arrival last season, the Bees had posted back-to-back two-win seasons. Last year — Bethel’s first under Mays — the Bees won four games. This year, the Bees had posted 11 wins heading into Wednesday’s Division III sectional tournament game against Miami East — more wins than they had posted the previous three seasons combined.
Things would appear to be on the upswing for the Bees, who will graduate just two seniors and saw three underclassmen see varsity playing time this season.
Tippecanoe’s turnaround was even quicker.
The Red Devils went just 3-20 last season — but that tells only part of the story. Midway through the season, hall of fame coach Jim Staley abruptly left the program.
This year, under Visser, Tippecanoe improved to 14-8 heading into Saturday’s Division II sectional tournament game with Springfield Shawnee.
The Red Devils will lose its top five leading scorers from this season to graduation, but given the job Visser did in turning the team around in just one year, don’t bet against the Red Devils next season.
• NO RETURNING CHAMPS: For only the second time since 2005, Miami County will enter the wrestling postseason without a returning state champion. With the graduation of three-time state champion Jarred Ganger from Covington, there are no returning state champs — the first time that has happened since the 2012 tournament, when there were no county champs crowned in 2011.
Since 2005, Miami County has had a state champion every year except 2011.
In the past decade, Miami County’s schools have combined to win a total of 23 individual state championships. All of those individual titles have been won by Troy Christian (17), Covingon (three) and Miami East (three). None of those three schools had ever won a state title prior to 2005, when Miami East’s Ryan Gambill got things rolling for Miami Count by winning the first of his three state titles.
In the 68 years prior to Miami County’s incredible run of state champs beginning in 2005, the county had produced a grand total of just three state champions — Troy’s Todd Darbyshire in 1982, Milton-Union’s Joe Creech in 1996 and Tippecanoe’s Nathan Jackson in 1999.
According to several different statewide wrestling websites, no Miami County wrestlers are favored to win a state championship this year, although several — including Tippecanoe’s Jack Peura, Troy Christian’s Jacob Edwards and Covington’s Ryan Ford — are expected to contend for the coveted state crowns.
• FINAL STATE POLLS: For the first time in more than a decade, Miami County finished the basketball regular season without a boys or girls basketball team ranked in the final Associated Press state basketball polls.
The Miami East boys basketball team had been the lone ranked team from Miami County for much of the season, but fell out of the final poll of the year.
The boys poll champions were: Wayne (Division I), New Concord John Glenn (Division II), Lima Central Catholic (Division III) and Van Wert Lincolnview (Division IV).
The girls poll champions were: Wadsworth (Division (I), Alter (Division II), Ashland Crestview (Division III) and Arlington (Division IV).
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong