By Ben Robinson
CASSTOWN — Covington, Miami East and Troy Christian opened up the OHSAA Regional Dual Team Tournament: Division III – Region 23-B Quarterfinals at Miami East High School on Saturday and when the dust settled, the Covington Buccaneers advanced to next Wednesday’s Regional Final round at Versailles High School.
Originally, Miami East was slated to open against Dayton Christian, but it backed out of the tournament due to a limited number of wrestlers – moving the Vikings into the second round against the winner of Covington and Troy Christian.
The Buccaneers fell behind early as they dropped the first three bouts of the dual against Troy Christian, but earned five straight forfeits to take a 30-13 lead.
Lance Miller then gave the Buccaneers their first win on the mat with a dominating 15-0 tech. fall win over Troy Chrsitian’s, Nick Baker at 160 pounds.
After a double forfeit at 170, Covington’s Brandon Magee ensured a Buccaneer victory with a 6-1 decision win over Jordan Strine at 182 pounds.
Leading 41-13, Covington surrendered 18 points by forfeiting the final three bouts of the dual – ultimately winning dual 41-31 to advance against Miami East.
And what an exciting back-and-forth dual it was between the two Cross County Conference rivals.
Miami East opened with two impressive wins at 106 and 113 pounds as Jacob Edwards pinned Alexis Roth and returning state placer Graham Shore pinned returning state alternate Connor Ryan to give the Vikings a 12-0 lead.
After Covington’s Coleman Ryan picked up six points for the Buccaneers with a forfeit at 126 pounds, the Vikings pushed their advantage to 18-6 with a come-from-behind victory by Alex Isbrandt over Jared Ford. Isbrandt, also a returning state placer for the Vikings, found himself behind heading into the second period, but was able to turn Ford for the fall in 3:41.
But the most exciting match of the evening came at 132 pounds as Covington freshman Keringten Martin hooked up with Zane Strubler of Miami East. Martin gained the early advantage with a takedown and increased his lead to 5-3 in the third period, but Strubler was able to gain a two-point reversal and three back points by locking up a spladle. Martin was able to fight his way out of trouble and recorded a reversal in the waning moments, but ran out of time as Strubler held on for the 8-7 win.
Trailing 21-6, Covington needed a spark and got exactly that over the next five matches.
First, Ryan Ford – a returning two-time state placer – picked up a 2:25 pin over Andrew Harmon at 138 pounds and Josh Sowers followed with a pivotal 4:26 pin of Cody Nickels at 145 pounds.
Gage DeHart kept Covington rolling with a pin at 152 pounds over Travis Ferguson and Deron White followed with a 1:28 pin of Colton Kowalak at 160 pounds.
The Buccaneers then increased their advantage to 36-21 as returning state qualifier Lance Miller bumped up from 160 to 170 pounds and stuck Matthew Welker in 4:22.
Needing a win to stay in contention, Miami East rebounded at 182 pounds as Daniel Everett caught Covington’s Joey Schmelzer in a scramble to record a pin in 3:06.
But Covington was able to lock up the dual victory at 195 pounds as Brandon Magee pinned Cody Niswonger in 36 seconds to give the Buccaneers a 42-27 lead.
Miami East wasn’t about to let the hometown crowd go home disappointed as Caden Hellyer avenged a defeat from earlier in the season with a 42 second pin of Seth Thomas and then returning state placer Ben Ferguson closed out the dual with a 34 second pin of Carl Lankford.
Covington advances to next Wednesday’s regional at Versailles, but before that both the Buccs and Vikings will compete in the Lima Central Catholic Invitational this weekend.