By David Fong
COLUMBUS — For only the second time since 2005, Miami County did not bring home an individual state title from last weekend’s Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling championships in Columbus.
As easy as Miami County has made winning state titles look for the past decade, however, winning a state championship is anything but that.
“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to win a state title,” said Miami East coach Mark Rose, who himself placed third at state while wrestling for the Vikings in 1992. “You’ve got to have a lot of things go your way. You’ve got all these guys competing for the top spot on the podium.”
Next year, however, a core group of wrestlers who would appear primed to make runs at state titles in 2017 will return.
Of the 12 wrestlers who qualified for the 2016 state tournament, six will return next season. Of those six returning wrestlers, five have been to state at least twice already, while four placed at state this year and three already are multiple-time state placers.
The two wrestlers who placed highest at this year’s state meet — Troy Christian’s Jacob Edwards, who placed second, and Miami East’s Graham Shore, who placed third — are both sophomores and will have two more years left to chase state titles.
Troy Christian’s Michael Sergent, who placed seventh this year and fourth two years ago — will be a senior next season, as will Milton-Union’s Kamron Paulus, who has qualified for state each of his first three seasons wrestling for the Bulldogs. Miami East’s Alex Isbrandt — who has placed seventh at state each of the past two seasons — and teammate Zane Strubler, who made his debut at state this year, both are just sophomores.
Tippecanoe senior heavyweight Logan Ferrell — who placed seventh this year in his first trip to the state meet — said those six returning wrestlers will have a decided advantage should they qualify for next year’s state meet.
“I think it definitely helps if you have been here before,” he said after his state tournament run was complete. “I think it helps to have that experience. You come in knowing what to expect. This was all new to me.”
While Miami County did not produce a state champion this year, it should not detract what county wrestlers have been able to accomplish for the past decade — particularly when compared to the county’s record of producing state champions at the state meet prior to 2005.
Since 2005, 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 County 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.
C0ntact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong