DAY THREE: DIVISION III STATE TOURNAMENT
COLUMBUS - As bad as he wanted it and as hard as he worked for it, Covington senior Ryan Ford doesn't need a state championship medal to define him.
"No he doesn't," said Covington coach Tom Barbee after Ford came up short in his quest for a state title by finishing fourth at 138 pounds. "What defines Ryan is the type of kid he is. Yes, he's a great wrestler, but more importantly he is an outstanding student and an unbelievable person. He's also a great role model for the younger kids in our community."
Ford's dream of a state title ended in the semifinals on Friday night, but the Buccaneer senior was able to rebound with a 10-7 win over Smithville's Riley Smucker in the consolation semifinal. In the match, Ford built a 7-3 lead with three takedowns and an escape, but Smucker battled back to tie the score at 7-7 midway through the third period.
Undeterred, Ford went back to work by recording an escape point and a fourth takedown to advance to the consolation final against Mechanicsburg's Tanner Smith.
And Ford wrestled like he was on a mission - constantly attacking with shot after shot. Unfortunately, with each shot Ford could't finish as Smith held him off at the edge of the mat leaving the score tied at 0-0 after one period of action.
Smith won the choice to start the second and chose bottom. Ford elected to surrender the escape point so he could continue his attack from his feet.
And attack Ford did, but Smith was able to catch the Buccaneer wrestler coming in with a pancake to record the pin in stunning fashion.
"Man, Ryan was wrestling so well," said Covington assistant coach Eric Vanderhorst, shaking his head. "He was attacking and attacking and eventually we thought Ryan was going to break through (with a takedown). Unfortunately, he just got caught by a really good kid."
Vanderhorst felt four wrestlers were capable of winning the 138 pound weight class.
"You look at one-thirty-eight, there were four wrestlers who we thought could win it," explained Vanderhorst. "Ryan, Tanner Smith, (Dustin) Marteney of Delta and the Grandview Heights kid (Brendan Fitzgerald). Unfortunately, we came up short."
Still, by placing fourth, Ford became just the second Covington wrestler in the history of the program to earn three state medals - the other being Andrew Dehart, who was a four-time state placer.
Plus, Ford finished his high school career with a school record 201 career wins.
"Ryan has done a great job," Barbee praised. "I know he's extremely disappointed now, but he'll look back one day and be very proud of what he's accomplished. We're definitely proud of him."
Which is why Ryan Ford doesn't need a state championship medal around his neck to define him.