2002-03 Covington Buccaneers: (Sitting) – Monica Batdorf, (Kneeling left to right) – Bobby Wiltshire, Josh Mahan, Logan Brown, C.J. Potter, Ryan Vanderhorst, Brian Ely, Wesley Yingst, Jordan Tebbe, Malorie Hall, (Standing left to right) – Coach Tom Barbee, Billy Wendel, Ezra Mohler, Jesse Hitt, David White, Dusty Hess, Josh Vargo, Brandon Hartzell, Derrick Canan, Coach Eric Vanderhorst.

With the graduation of some talented wrestlers a year ago, including two-time state qualifier Mike Stephan, the expectation for the 2002-03 season was one of rebuilding. But rebuilding wasn’t the ultimate result as the Buccaneers put together a solid season with a 13-10 dual meet record, a 50-46 tournament record and an overall record of 63-56 for a winning percentage of 53%.

What made the difference for this year’s team was how close the kids were. It was a close-nit group who pushed each other for significant improvement.

The senior class of Derrick Canan, Dusty Hess, Jesse Hitt, Josh Vargo, Billy Wendel and David White, led this year’s squad.  Also contributing greatly were juniors Ben Adams, Brandon Hartzell and Mitchell Herron. Canan was a returning District placer, while Hess, Hitt and Wendel were returning District qualifiers, and Adams was returning District alternate.  New to the team were sophomore Aaron Staley and freshmen Carl Brown, Logan Brown, Brian Ely, Josh Mahan, C.J. Potter, Jordan Tebbe, Ryan Vanderhorst, Ritchie Watkins, Bobby Wiltshire and Wesley Yingst.

This season exceeded expectations was capped by senior Dusty Hess becoming the first heavyweight in school history to qualify for state. What made his state qualification even more impressive was the fact that it was just the second year Hess ever participated in wrestling – a sport he took part in due to the encouragement of his friend Mike Stephan. Hess’ love was in the sport of football and he encouraged Stephan a year ago to participate in football and Stephan encouraged Hess to compete in wrestling. What transpired made Buccaneer history.

Dusty Hess is the first heavyweight in Buccaneer history to qualify for state.

Dusty Hess


Dusty Hess has a pretty impressive athletic resume at Covington High School. He was a three-year starter on three straight 10-0 football teams. He was an all CCC performer his junior and senior seasons, conference co-lineman of the year as a senior, 1st team all-state and District 9 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. For his accomplishments, Dusty has garnered some interests from colleges to play football and now is considering attending the University of Dayton and play for the Flyers.

Before he looks ahead to another football season next fall, Dusty is adding to his resume at CHS in yet another sport. He has now become a member of the elite group in Covington wrestling…”State Qualifier”.

“I’m so proud of Dusty,” complemented Covington coach, Tom Barbee. “He’s come a long way in a short period of time. He has the work ethic and intensity you need in this sport and that’s what has gotten him this far. He’s beaten kids who have been doing this for a long time.”

“This is totally unexpected,” remarked Hess. “I never thought in a million years I’d be going to state. This is unbelievable.”

The reason Hess is awe struck by his accomplishment is because of the difficult path he took to get to this point.

“Dusty has only wrestled for two years,” commented assistant wrestling coach Eric Vanderhorst. “It’s amazing he has been able to do what he has done so far. Some wrestlers do this for a long time and never get the oppotunity that Dusty will get this Thursday, wrestle at State.”

Hess got into wrestling as a junior at the persistance of Mike Stephan, a two-time state qualifier at Covington. Hess and his football teammates talked Stephan into playing football his senior year so it appears turnabout is fair play. The outcome has benefited both the football and wrestling programs as Stephan, despite never playing football before, was a surprising force at nose tackle and now Hess carries on the tradition of Covington wrestlers making the trip to Columbus.

“It’s been hard (wrestling),” said Hess. “At first I would rely on my strength and quickenss and get by that way. As I got more experience and learned more, I began to use more technique. Now I try to use all of my tools, strength, speed and some moves.”

After having a lackluster performance in the sectional tournament in front of the hometown fans at Covington High School, Hess became the only wrestler from the sectional to qualify for the state tournament. Dusty placed fourth in the district tournament at Xenia High School while the other wrestlers from the Covington sectional failed to finish in the top four.

“Hess knew he didn’t wrestle to his capabilities during the sectionals,” said Vanderhorst. “He put it together at Districts and the guys that finished ahead of Dusty last week were eliminated.”

“I was sick and didn’t have any strength at sectionals,” commented Hess. “It was a tough sectional too. Any of the top four kids could have won it. Jason Bonham from Troy Christian is a really good wrestler and he should be going to state so that shows you how tough it is to get this far.”

The road Dusty took through the district tournament was similar to the road he took to get to this point…difficult.

Hess was leading Carlisle’s, David Brewer through their opening round match before inexperience took over. Brewer reversed Hess and pinned him 4:52 into the match. This put Hess in the consolation bracket, making his path to the state meet that much more difficult.

“Dusty just made a mistake and that’s because of his inexperience,” said coach Barbee. “He lacks the feel for when to pull out of a move when it’s not working and try something else. That got him in trouble against Brewer.”

In his second match, Hess won by fall at 4:33 over Anthony Helton of North College Hill. He finished the first day of the tournament still alive with a 1-1 record.

In the second day of the tournament, Hess made his run into the Covington history books. Hess defeated Jacob Wysong of Dixie by the score of 13-4 and followed that with a close 4-2 win over Nick Adams of Oakwood. This set up a rematch with David Brewer from Carlisle for a guaranteed trip to state.

As it has been for Hess throughout the past two years, he had to learn from his mistakes in a hurry. Brewer defeated him less than 24-hours before and Hess had to fight off the demons of doubt and try to gain a psychological edge early in the match. Dusty responded by dominating the match from the outset and eliminating the mistakes that defeated him before. The result was a 9-1 majority decision and a trip to the state meet.

“It was nice to see Dusty beat Brewer after Brewer defeated Dusty earlier,” said coach Barbee. “He (Brewer) also beat a kid that only had one loss and was expected to place this year. Dusty turns around and beats Brewer which proves that anything can happen.”

“Winning that match was a great feeling,” described Hess. “I was on top of the world and beating him made it that much better because he beat me earlier. I knew going into the match that I could beat him because moves I used in the first match were working. I just got too aggressive and tried to force things. I made a mistake and he stuck me. All I had to do was not force anything and work the clock. I took my time and wrestled my match.”

Hess ended the day with a tough 8-2 decision loss to Danny Ivins from Clinton-Massie in their battle for 3rd and 4th.

Both Ivins and Hess will be at state starting this Thursday. Maybe Hess will get another crack at him and turn the tables again. After all, he has a few days to learn from his mistakes.

“I’m going to work out with Mike Stephan this week and try to get prepared for what I will be up against,” continued Hess. “Mike’s told me a little about it like the hotels they put you in, the number of mats they have going and the crowd. I’m just going to go there and try to make them (opponents) wrestle my match. My goal is to go over there and win a few matches and hopefully place.”

He came from the road less traveled to get there, don’t be surprised if he takes the same road once he’s there. Placing is not out of the questions…not for Dusty Hess.

At the State tournament, Dusty will wrestle at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Thursday between 3-4 pm, where he will wrestle Mark Nagel of Delta in the first round.

In the first round, as a fourth-place finisher at Districts, Dusty drew the District Champion out of the Toledo Waite District – Mark Nagel of Delta. Nagel entered the match as a two-time State Runner-up with an undefeated 29-0 record. Dusty wrestled well, but a little tentatively. Nagel took control of the match on his feet, scoring multiple takedowns as Hess lost the match by a 13-6 decision. Nagel went on to place 3rd at State this year.

In the consolation bracket, Dusty drew Josh Ewing of West Salem Northwestern, who entered the State Tournament with a 35-4 record. Dusty came out hungry for a win this time, and wrestled much more aggressively. Through two periods though, Dusty found himself down by 2 points, and instead of losing another close decision, Hess went for the win with a big over/under throw, only to get caught on his back and pinned.

Dusty finished his senior season with a 33-15 record, and was a great asset to the team this year.

David White
Senior Derrick Canan
Senior Billy Wendel