By Ben Robinson
Covington coach Tom Barbee has seen his fair share of Buccaneer wrestlers put everything on the line in the state wrestling tournament only to see it end in controversial fashion.
But Friday morning in the state quarterfinal he witnessed his wrestler catch a break as senior 160 pounder Lance Miller picked up a defensive pin of projected state champion Josh Doherty of West Jefferson.
“Yeah, it was a break,” said Barbee. “We took advantage of it though. He (Lance) felt very comfortable in what he was doing and took advantage of the situation.”
It was an odd scene of events as Doherty had Miller locked up in a tilt and was awarded three back points.
But as quickly as the referee’s hand went up to signal three points, his other hand just as quickly slapped the mat – resulting in a victory via pin for Miller in 3:42.
“He was going for a tilt and locked up some near fall,” Miller explained. “It’s something I felt (Doherty out of position), so I pushed back into him and got the pin.”
And despite the obvious and understandable protest by Doherty’s camp, Miller isn’t about to apologize for his good fortune.
“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” Miller said with a broad smile on his face. “I’m on to the semifinals.”
Miller shouldn’t apologize because it’s similar to a move Jason Kingrey used back in the 1980’s to place at state.
“It’s not exactly the same as what Jason did, but it’s similar,” said Covington assistance coach Eric Vanderhorst. “Jason used to set guys up for that. Lance basically just took advantage of the situation when it was there. It was a position you don’t want to see your wrestler in, but Lance made a heads-up decision by pushing back into him (Doherty).”
Up to that point Miller had wrestled nearly flawlessly – executing two first period takedowns en route to a 4-2 lead after one.
“Going into that match we knew that his (Doherty’s) right lead leg was going to work into Lance’s elbow pass and high crotch,” Vanderhorst explained. ” And it did because Lance scored two takedowns off of it and almost got another one that ended up out of bounds.”
Doherty chose bottom to start the second and Miller surrendered the escape point to make the score 4-3.
The West Jefferson wrestler and state runner-up last year then took Miller down to take his first lead of the contest at 5-4.
He then locked up the tilt for three back points before Miller stunned him with a heads-up move for a defensive pin.
Miller, then went on to face Tyler Speelman of Nelsonville-York (50-8) in the semifinal later in the evening.
And the Buccaneer wrestler continued his dominating ways by building a 9-5 lead before surrounding a late takedown in a 9-7 win.
The victory moves Miller, now 47-4, into the state championship match at 160 pounds.
“It feels good,” Miller said. “I was pretty confident going in that I could get some takedowns early and that’s what I did.”
“Lance has done a great job of setting up his shots and finishing them,” he said. “Typically Lance likes to turn guys, but that’s not what we wanted to do in this match. We wanted Lance to control the action on his feet and he did a good job of executing the game plan.”
Miller was very emotional after the match as he raced into the stands to embrace his parents before returning for interviews.
“My family means so much to me,” he said. “I know how much this means to them and I want to do it (win state) for them – especially my parents.”
Miller will have 24 hours to prepare and hopefully do just that Saturday night at the Schott.