By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — With two kids finishing on podium and two more qualifying for the state wrestling meet, Miami East coach Mark Rose had plenty of reason to smile Saturday in the interview room at the Schottenstein Center at the Division III Individual State Wrestling tournament.
“I’m proud of all four of the kids who made it over here this weekend,” said Rose. “All four put in the extra time and that’s what you need to do to get to this level.”
Senior Ben Ferguson finished his career at state as a three-time qualifier and a state placer from 2015, while sophomore Zane Strubler qualified for state the first time.
But the two Vikings to earn a spot on the podium where sophomores Graham Shore and Alex Isbrandt — two wrestlers who also placed at state a year ago.
Shore, who finished seventh at 106 pounds last year as a freshman, put together an outstanding tournament to take third at 113 pounds.
“G (Graham Shore) wrestled great this weekend,” Rose said. “We had the one tight match in the semifinals that didn’t go our way, but he wrestled very well the entire weekend. He beat the Sanchez kid (Julian Sanchez of Genoa Area) who beat Graham earlier this year. G beat him to get in for third.”
And Shore faced yet another familiar foe in the consolation final, Christian Wellman of Apple Creek Waynedale.
“This was the third time they’ve faced each other at state, once last year and twice this weekend,” explained Rose. “G won them all, but each one of their matches went down to the wire.”
After a scoreless first period, Wellman recorded an escape and a takedown to take a 3-0 lead, but Shore responded with an escape of his own to close the gap to 3-1 heading into the third period.
Shore chose bottom to start the third and battled his way out to cut the deficit to 3-2 with another escape point and then he immediately went on the offensive in an attempt to secure the winning takedown. Finally, Shore was able to get in deep and scored the winning takedown in the waning moments for a 4-3 win.
“We gave up the quick takedown in the second period, but G (Graham Shore) kept pushing forward,” Rose said. “His motor just keeps running and that’s why he’s able to come back like that in the end.”
After two days of wrestling, Alex Isbrandt went 2-2 to put himself in position to earn his second straight seventh place medal. Last year Isbrandt placed seventh at 113 pounds and was looking to duplicate that effort in a stacked 126-pound weight class.
“That’s a bear of a weight class,” Rose said of 126 pounds. “There’s not much separation from top to bottom.”
And in Isbrandt’s way was another determined wrestler in Caleb Brooks of Columbus Bishop Ready. Neither wrestler could score through two periods as Brooks was able to ride Isbrandt the entire second period after holding off the Viking wrestler’s shot attempts in the first. But Isbrandt was able to lock in a deep half nelson in the third period to record a pin and secure his seventh place medal.
“We were top in the third and I was thinking maybe we should cut him,” explained Rose. “But then Alex hit the half and he had it in tight and deep. That was a huge effort by Alex.”
Which symbolized the type of performance Rose received from all four wrestlers this weekend.
“The kids wrestled hard,” he said. “I know Ben and Zane ace up short, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. Graham finished higher on the podium than last year and Alex placed in a weight class that may have been one of the toughest weight classes this year. The kids did well.”
And put a smile on the face of their coach.