JANUARY 30, 2021 - LIMA
Every year the Thunderbird Invitational at Lima Central Catholic is a barometer to gauge the competition leading to a possible state birth in Division III for individual wrestlers. In short, where do you stack up against the competition?
Saturday’s team championship for the Covington Buccaneers - the first since 2013 at the LCC - showed the Buccaneer grapplers stack up pretty good. Granted, the tournament didn’t field all of the wrestlers the Buccs will see in sectionals and districts, but the level of competition is as close as you can get.
Covington finished first in the team standings with 177 team points, just ahead of a very good Allen East team, who tallied 171 points.
The Buccaneers had nine placers out of the 11 wrestlers who competed in the tournament - an impressive accomplishment since Covington was missing six talented wrestlers in Carson Taylor, Chase Vanderhorst, Jackson Shiverdecker, Caleb Miller, Duncan Cooper and Ricky Stephan.
Cael Vanderhorst was the lone Buccaneer to win an individual championship as he dominated the 138-pound weight class with pins over Gavin Zibrida of Coldwater and Wilson Grubb of McComb, followed by back-to-back technical fall wins over Brayden Doran of Preble Shawnee and Nick Musselman of Blanchester. Vanderhorst was so dominant he didn’t allow a single offensive point over the entire weekend.
Finishing runner-up for the Buccaneers were Kellan Anderson (126) and Michael Hagan (106).
Anderson, the #3 seed, steamrolled to the finals with wins over Chance Rust of Miami East and #2 seed Jarrett Hornich of Wayne Trace. He was then controlling his championship match against Hayden Kuhn of Ashland Crestview before surrendering a five-point move in the final seconds, falling 5-1. Yet, in the season of COVID, the loss will only ad fuel to the fire for the Buccaneer senior as he moves forward in his quest to become a four-time state qualifier.
Like Anderson, Hagan was dominant in his path to the finals at 106 pounds as he recorded pins over Trey Hunter of Spencerville and Hunter Smith of Blanchester. Then, in the finals, Hagan recorded a quick takedown in the opening seconds against top-seeded Thayne Kleman of Bluffton. The Bluffton wrestler earned the top seed for a reason, which was proven as he managed to scramble out of trouble and catch Hagan on his back for a pin.
Still, despite suffering the first defeat of his young high school career, Hagan has plenty to build off of from the experience - especially the Kleman match. Should they match up down the line, it will be a heck of a battle.
Finishing third for Covington was freshman 113 pounder Jericho Quinter, junior 152 pounder Connor Sindelir and junior 182 pounder Jensen Wagoner.
The freshman class for Covington is talented and Quinter is one of the bright spots as evident by his performance in arguably one of the toughest weight classes in the tournament. Seeded fifth, Quinter advanced to the semifinal round with a 16-0 technical fall win over #4 seed Nyah Hodge of Spencerville. He then faced #1 seed Gavin Caprella, a junior standout from Lima Central Catholic in the semifinals. Quinter gave the top-seeded wrestler all he could handle - and then some - before falling via pin late in the match after the Buccaneer freshman had to go for broke in an attempt to win a narrow decision.
Quinter rebounded in the consolation rounds by recording back-to-back pins of #7 seed Austin Hamilton of Coldwater and Ian Fuentes of Delphos St, John.
Sindelir opened the tournament with back-to-back pins of Bryan Bandow of Blanchester and #8 seed Sam Obringer of Coldwater. The Buccaneer junior then was in control of his semifinal match until an illegal throw by #5 seed Trenton Gatchell of Ottawa-Glandorf injured his shoulder. Instead of injury defaulting out of the tournament, Sindelir battled the best he could - eventually falling to Gatchell by the narrowest of margins, 11-10.
However, Sindelir continued to grind in the consolation rounds and was rewarded with a 15-0 technical fall win over Bandow in the rematch and a 52 second pin of #4 seed Cody Dekoyer of Swanton.
Wagoner’s trip to the podium began with a 31 second pin of Carl Ruppert of Hicksville and a 14-1 major decision win over #7 seed Ethan Wendt of Newark Catholic. Wagoner then dropped an 8-3 decision to eventual runner-up Brier Godsey of Ashland Crestview before beating #3 seed Dalton Hesselbart of Eastwood and pinning #5 seed Shane Ontrop of Coldwater to take third at 182 pounds.
Buccaneer 170 pounder Trentin Alexander finished fourth in what was yet another loaded weight class of talented wrestlers. Alexander recorded three pins to finish 3-2 on the weekend.
Two Buccaneers finished in seventh place to contribute with valuable team points.
Freshman 220 pounder Hayden Barker also went 3-2, while senior David Robinson, seeded 8th, beat the #4 seed and #6 seed to find his way to the podium at 145 pounds.
Also wrestling well in the tournament despite coming up just short of joining their teammates on the podium was sophomore 170 pounder Trey Kiser and junior 285 pounder Scott Blumenstock.
Next up for Covington is a tri-match with Milton-Union and Coldwater at Coldwater High School on February 2nd.