BUCCANEER WRESTLING HISTORY
The first Covington wrestling team was started in 1973 under the guidance of coaches Larry Tisdale, Dean Pond and Rex Thompson. Nineteen boys went out that year and the team finished with a record of 2 wins and 1 loss.
In 1978, under Coach Jack Schwamberger, Covington sent its first wrestler to the State Wrestling Tournament as Randy Kimmel defeated a Mechanicsburg wrestler to win the 155 lb. District Championship. In his first match at State, Kimmel lost a 6-2 decision to a wrestler from Fremont St. Joseph, but the tradition of Buccaneer wrestling success was started. Kimmel then became the school’s first two-time District Champion in 1979 by winning the 155 pound weight class. In doing so, Randy qualified for the State Tournament for the second straight season to become the program’s first two-time State Qualifier.
Kirk Tisdale qualified for State in 1980, while Don Emenegger and Brad Hall qualified in 1981 to become the first teammates to make it to State in the same season. Hall followed with a return trip to State in 1982 to become the second two-time State Qualifier.
In 1983, under Coach Tom Barbee, Covington won its first District Team Championship as seven wrestlers placed 4th or better at the tournament. Two of those wrestlers, Craig Vanderhorst and Jason Kingrey qualified for State and became the first Covington wrestlers to place at the State Tournament. Vanderhorst placed 3rd at 138 lbs. while Kingrey placed 4th at 167 lbs., giving the Buccs a 13th place finish at State. Kingrey went on to become a 2X National Qualifier (1986, 1988) at Heidelburg University where he set the school record for all-time wins.
In 1984, Covington had its most successful season thus far with an undefeated dual record of 16-0-1 and overall record of 59-6-1. This year the Buccs won their first league championship, edging the favorite, Versailles, to win the Southwestern Rivers Conference Tournament. Covington also won another District Team Championship, although between 1984 and 1987, ‘Districts’ was equivalent to today’s Sectional while ‘Regionals’ was equivalent to today’s District.
Craig Vanderhorst again placed third at State, this time at 145 lbs. His experience shows how luck and chance come into play at the State Tournament. He seemed to be in control of his first match, leading in the third period with around 15 seconds to go when his opponent from Thompson Ledgemont suddenly scored a reversal and back points to win the match. Vanderhorst won the remainder of his matches to place third while the Thompson Ledgemont wrestler advanced to the finals to be pinned by State Champion Erik Thomas of Gahanna Columbus Academy, a wrestler who Vanderhorst defeated 10-2 the week before in the Regional Finals. Jim Shields (105 lbs.) and Jason Kingrey (167 lbs.) also qualified for State in 1984.
In 1985, Rodney Kimmel made a run into the State Tournament. Rodney joined his brother (Randy in ’78) as the first brothers from Covington to wrestle in State. Covington had another outstanding season in 1986, winning both the District and Regional Championships and sending a record 4 wrestlers (Keith Musgrave, Mike Hagan, Scott Tayler and Brian Olson) to the State Tournament. 1987 saw three Buccaneer wrestlers make it to State; Chris Nutter (119 lbs., Scott Tayler (175 lbs.), and Brian Olson (185 lbs.) and then Randy Sowers (160 lbs.) made it in 1989.
Nine Buccaneer wrestlers qualified for State in the decade of the 1990s with Eric Vanderhorst (’91 and ’92), Eric Hunt (’94 and ’95), and Scot Fetters (’98 and ’99) becoming two-time State Qualifiers. Also qualifying in the 1990s were Brad Crumpler (1993), Todd Vanderhorst (1995), Noah Turner (1997), Brian Swinehart (1998), Brandon Owens (1999), and Scot Batdorf (1999). After 25 years of coaching the high school and jr. high teams, Coach Jack Schwamberger’s final season coaching Covington wrestlers was in 1998. He finished with 144 dual meet victories and 12 state qualifiers, and along with Coach Tom Barbee, helped build the Covington wrestling program from the ground up. Sadly, Coach “Schwammy” passed away in July 2021.
The Buccs’ success of sending wrestlers to the State Meet continued into the new millennium as Steve Batdorf qualified in 2000 and 2001. Brandon Owens was also a State Qualifier in 2000 while Mike Stephan earned State births in 2001 and 2002. Stephan won two matches at State in 2002 and finished with a 47-3 record that season. Dusty Hess then represented the Buccs at the State Meet in 2003 in only his second year of wrestling. Hess dropped both of his matches at State, one to the third place finisher.
The tradition continued in 2004 as Logan Brown made it to State at 189 lbs. The sophomore wrestler fell to the eventual State Runner-up 9-2 and finished with a 49-7 record. Brown repeated as a State Qualifier in 2005 and became the first State Placer since 1984 as he captured third in the 189 lb. weight class. Brown breezed through his first two matches at State with a 10-1 win over Jeremy Stevens of Ashland Crestview and then a 12-5 win over Marion Pleasant’s Alex Ballenger in the Quarterfinals. This set up a showdown with the 2004 State Champion at 171 lbs., Spencer Dye from Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic. Brown took Dye to the limit before falling 4-1 as Dye went on to capture his second straight title. Logan then won his final two matches, 3-2 over Eric Haubert of Sycamore Mohawk and 6-4 over Josh Fox of Catalia Margaretta to capture third at state. Brown finished the season with a then school record 50-1 record. In 2006, Logan became the first wrestler in Buccaneer history to go to State for a third time and also became the first Covington wrestler to win a State Championship with a 9-2 win over Jeremy Stevens of Ashland Crestview in the finals. Logan finished unbeaten at 52-0 under the guidance of coach Tom Barbee. Along the way, Brown defeated Cris Gault, And. Pymatuning Valley by pin in 2:47; Brock Kirian of Sycamore Mohawk by a 5-2 decision; Brad Rice of West Jefferson by a 13-6 decision and Jeremy Stevens of Ashland Crestview by a 9-2 decision. No wrestler in the 2006 state tournament scored an offensive point on Logan.
After a one-year hiatus from the State Tournament in 2007, the Buccaneers returned to the big show with freshman Andrew DeHart. In an historic 2008 tournament, DeHart became the youngest Covington wrestler to qualify and place at State as he took sixth at 130 pounds. DeHart followed that performance by becoming just the third two-time State Placer with a fourth place finish at 145 pounds as a sophomore in 2009. He then became Covington’s first three-time State Placer in 2010 by taking Runner-up honors at 145 pounds. He followed that up with a third place finish at 145 pounds in 2011 to become the school’s first four-time State Placer. Andrew continued his career as a member of the Duke University wrestling team. Also in 2011, sophomore Kyler Deeter became Covington’s fifth State Placer by taking fourth at 130 pounds.
During DeHart’s four year career he helped lead the Buccs to the most successful dual meet season in the 2009-10 season with an undefeated, un-tied campaign – battling to a perfect 29-0 dual meet record. Along the way, the team defeated a number of outstanding teams including Sectional Runner-up Oakwood, Sectional Champion and District Runner-up Mechanicsburg, and a Dixie squad that finished third in the invitation-only State Duals (unfortunately the Buccs weren’t invited). The Buccs also defeated strong teams in Troy, Coldwater, Arcanum and Versailles.
History was made once again in 2012 as Brian Olson Jr. joined his father as the first father-son combination in school history to become State Qualifiers. Brian did his father proud by taking sixth place at 182 pounds, becoming the sixth State Placer in school history. Kyler Deeter joined Olson at State at 138 pounds, qualifying for the second year in a row after placing fourth in 2011. Olson continued his wrestling career at the University of Mount Union where he became an NCAA Division 3 National Qualifier, while Kyler Deeter went on to wrestle at Ohio Northern University where he finished with 96 wins, the 15th most in school history.
The Buccaneer tradition of sending wrestlers to the State Tournament continued in 2013 as three wrestlers made the trip as State Qualifiers, and an additional four travelled as State Alternates. A.J. Ouellette placed 4th at 182 pounds, while Jake Sowers (152) and Daniel Jennings (145) earned qualifying births. Brian Olson, Jr., Kyler Deeter, Ben Miller and Ryan Ford went as State Alternates.
2014 was a historic season as the Bucccaneers finished with arguably the most successful season in school history. The Buccs finished with a 28-1 dual meet record, dropping a narrow dual to State Runner-up Dayton Christian in the Regional Finals, and finished with the best overall team record in 42 seasons of wrestling: 190-11 (95%). The team won its second consecutive Sectional Championship with a school record 13 District Qualifiers, then placed 2nd out of 53 teams at Districts and qualified a school-record five wrestlers to State – Jarred Ganger, Ryan Ford, Daniel Jennings, Ben Miller and A.J. Ouellette. Four wrestlers placed with Jarred Ganger becoming the second Covington wrestler to win a State Championship. A.J. Ouellette became a two-time State Placer by taking fifth, while Ryan Ford took 3rd at 132 pounds and Ben Miller placed 6th at 170 pounds. Daniel Jennings became a two-time State Qualifier and Connor Ryan was the Buccaneer alternate. As a team the Buccs placed fifth at State (a program best), was Runner-up in the District Tournament, Runner-up in District Team Duals and Sectional Champions. Ouellette went on to play collegiate football at Ohio University and played professionally for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after short stints with the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
2015 was yet another banner year for Covington wrestling as the Buccs put together one of its best tournament records in school history, finishing 163-10 overall. This included a Runner-up finish to perennial power Graham at the 55-team GMVWA Holiday Tournament. The Buccs also finished with a 27-3 dual meet record as Regional Runners-up to Mechanicsburg. Covington sent four wrestlers to State and three came home with medals, including a two-time Covington State Champion in Jarred Ganger. The Buccaneer senior dominated all season, finishing 52-3 and earning his third State Championship (one as a sophomore at Troy Christian). Ryan Ford and Ben Miller became two-time State Placers with Ford finishing 3rd at 138 pounds and Miller taking 6th at 182 pounds. Sophomore Lance Miller came up short of placing, but set the tone for future years of success.
The success of the Covington wrestling program continued in 2016 as Ryan Ford became just the second Buccaneer wrestler to place at State three times – joining Andrew DeHart, who was a four-time State Placer. Ford placed fourth at 138 pounds and established a new career mark for wins with 201. Ford was joined at state by senior Brandon Magee, who was inserted into the tournament as an alternate due to another wrestler in the 182 pound bracket failing skin check at weigh-ins. Magee proved he belonged by winning a match at state via pin. Ryan Ford continued his wrestling career at Cleveland State University.
In 2017 Lance Miller was the lone Buccaneer to qualify for the State Meet after winning Sectional and District Championships at 160 pounds. He followed that up by finishing Runner-up at State, becoming the fourth Buccaneer wrestler to reach the State Finals. 2017 was also the final year of the legendary coaching career of Tom Barbee, who along with Coach Jack Schwamberger, helped build the Covington wrestling program from the ground up. He concluded his career with 3 State Champions, 5 State Finalists, 21 State Placers, 39 State Qualifiers and 443 career dual wins, which ranked third in the state of Ohio at the time. For his accomplishments, Barbee was elected into the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame on March 10, 2018 at the 81st Annual State Wrestling Championships in Columbus.
Eric Vanderhorst, who assisted Barbee for 19 years, took over in 2018 and the program continued to thrive as it qualified four wrestlers to the State Meet – Keringten Martin (152), Gage Kerrigan (195), Kellan Anderson (106) and Cael Vanderhorst (113). Anderson placed 6th and Vanderhorst placed 8th to become the 12th and 13th State Placers and joined Andrew DeHart as the only freshmen wrestlers to place at State.
In 2019, Covington put together its best tournament record (166-6) and best overall record (192-10) in school history, including a 2nd place finish out of 60 teams at Districts. The team finished in 13th place at State as Anderson (106), Vanderhorst (113) and Martin (152) all made return trips to State in 2019, while junior Austin Flick was a State Alternate at 145 pounds. Anderson (50-2) came up just short of placing for the second year in a row, but Vanderhorst and Martin both earned medals as Martin placed 3rd at 152 pounds and Vanderhorst took 4th at 113 pounds. Martin is continuing his wrestling career at Defiance College.
In 2020, Cael Vanderhorst (120 lbs.) and Kellan Anderson (126 lbs.) both qualified for State for the third consecutive year and were projected to place in their respective weight classes. Unfortunately, just days before the State Tournament was set to begin, the state of Ohio cancelled the tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic – taking away the opportunity for Vanderhorst to become a four-time State Placer, and Anderson to become a three-time State Placer.
Wrestling resumed in 2021 under “social distancing restrictions”, but Covington was able to qualify four wrestlers to the State Meet – seniors Kellan Anderson (126 lbs.), Cael Vanderhorst (138 lbs.), Trentin Alexander (170 lbs.) and freshman Michael Hagan (106 lbs.). Vanderhorst and Anderson became just the second and third wrestlers in school history to qualify for State for Covington all four years of high school – joining Andrew DeHart. Plus, Cael Vanderhorst finished 4th at 138 pounds to become just the third Buccaneer wrestler to place three times at State, while Kallen Anderson placed 8th at 126 pounds to become just the ninth wrestler to place twice in a career. Michael Hagan became the fourth wrestler to place at State as a freshman as he finished 8th at 106 pounds. Cael Vanderhorst is continuing his wrestling career at Ohio Northern University.
In 2022 the Buccaneers sent five wrestlers to the state meet – sophomores Carson Taylor (106), Jericho Quinter (113), Michael Hagan (120), Chase Vanderhorst (126) and senior Scott Blumenstock (285). Vanderhorst finished 5th at 126 pounds and Quinter took 6th at 113 pounds to become the 16th and 17th Buccaneer wrestlers to earn state medals. Blumenstock and Hagan came one win short of placing at state. Blumenstock was just the second heavyweight in school history to qualify for state, joining Dusty Hess in 2003. He was also the first Buccaneer heavyweight to make it to the second day of the state tournament and was the first heavyweight to qualify for districts three times.
Three Buccaneers advanced to the state meet in 2023; Chase Vanderhorst (132 lbs.), Michael Hagan (120 lbs.) and freshman Caleb Ryman (138 lbs.). Vanderhost placed fifth at state to become the tenth two-time state placer in Covington history, while Michael Hagan became the sixth three-time state qualifier and Ryman became the fifth Buccaneer freshman to qualify for state.
Over the years, Covington Wrestling has had its share of glorious triumphs and heartbreaking defeats. With the Covington Youth Wrestling Program, kids between ages 5 and 12 are now gaining valuable experience before entering Jr. High and High School. This, along with hard work and dedication from the wrestlers, and support from the fans, will provide Covington Wrestling with a promising future.
RANDY KIMMEL WILL ALWAYS BE THE FIRST
Covington has a rich tradition of sending wrestlers to the state tournament, but only one can make the claim of being the first. Actually, this wrestler can also make the claim of being the first Covington wrestler to go to state in two straight years.
That wrestler is Randy Kimmel.
"SCHWAMMY" IS A COVINGTON ICON
Covington wrestling has a strong tradition that was started in 1973 under the guidance of coaches Larry Tisdale, Dean Pond and Rex Thompson.
Jack Schwamberger took over as the head coach the following year in 1974 and built the program to where it had yearly success over his 16-year coaching career. Schwamberger coached from 1974 to 1980 and returned again to coach from 1990 to 1998. Over his time he produced 12 state qualifiers, including the first state qualifier in 1978, Randy Kimmel.
Throughout his time in Covington, Schwamberger also coached football and baseball and taught science He was inducted into the Covington Athetic Hall of Fame in 2017.
TOM BARBEE GOES INTO COACHES HALL OF FAME
MARCH 10, 2018 – COLUMBUS
For 42 years Tom Barbee gave all he had to Covington Schools as a teacher and a coach in the sports of football, track and wrestling. Wrestling, however, is where Barbee is most recognized due to the accomplishments of his program over his 28 years as head wrestling coach (1981-1989 and 1999-2017). For his accomplishments, Barbee was elected into the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame at the 81st Annual State Wrestling Championships on Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
TOM BARBEE: A SPECIAL MAN
MARCH 14, 2017 – COVINGTON
Saturday night was a fitting conclusion to the unbelievable high school coaching career that has spanned from 1975 to 2017 for Tom Barbee – 28 of those years as the head wrestling coach at Covington High School. So to see Buccaneer senior Lance Miller wrestle the tournament of his life at the 2017 state meet and ultimately reward Coach Barbee the opportunity of coaching his final match on the biggest stage (the state finals) – the script couldn’t have been written any better. The thought probably never entered Miller’s mind throughout the state tournament, but he was wrestling for a cause so much greater than attempting to win a state championship.
TRIBUTE TO TOM KIMMEL
MARCH 2, 2017 – COVINGTON
Five Buccaneer wrestlers will compete in the district wrestling meet this weekend at Hobart Arena in Troy with hopes of adding their names to the rich wrestling tradition at Covington as State Qualifiers and possibly earning their own banner in the wrestling room as a State Placer. And as these five wrestlers take to the mat on Friday, they can thank an individual who they probably don’t even know for the opportunities they enjoy as Buccaneer wrestlers. That person is Tom Kimmel, who passed away Wednesday, March 1st in his Covington home at the age of 71.
THE PAUL FINFROCK LEGACY
The following is a transcript spoken by Brad Hall, a former state qualifier and current school board member, during a presentation to honor Paul and Vicky Finfrock at the Covington Invitational on Saturday, February 13, 2010. Wrestling for Covington Schools began in 1973, where Paul Finfrock along with 18 other grapplers formed Covington’s first varsity team: Covington wrestling historians call this the era of the Kimmel brothers. Although the Kimmel’s made their mark on the mat, the Finfrock family is unique in that they have extended their influence on Covington Wrestling both on and off the mat. Paul contributed to the early success of the Buccaneer inaugural season, where the team finished 2-1 in dual competition.