By Garth Shanklin,
Sports Editor –
Last year, when the Bethel-Tate wrestling team defeated Purcell Marian to win the Region 23 title and earn a spot at the state quarterfinals in Columbus, it was historical. This year, it was expected.
Bethel-Tate rolled over CNE 69-9 in the regional semifinal, setting up a bout with the Blanchester Wildcats. Thanks to a late victory and a pair of forfeits, the Tigers defeated Blanchester 45-30 and clinched a return trip to the state quarterfinals.
Bethel-Tate started the night with a dual against Clermont Northeastern, much like the Tigers did last season. Joe Reinert began the dual with the Rockets by pinning Shawna Ross in 1:47 at the 106-pound class.
At 113, Zack Gutknecht pinned Sarah Padilla in 1:20, followed by Trey Sander pinning Seth Teaney at 120 in 2:42.
Donnie Harrison won the match at 126 via forfeit for the Tigers. CNE’s first win came at 126, where Sam Patterson defeated Austin Carter 6-3. Mike Whittington got the Tigers back on the winning side with a 16-9 decision victory over Tyler Conley in the 138-pound class.
At 145, Bethel-Tate’s Jonah Blakenship pinned CNE’s Joey Putnam in 3:19, followed by Matt Hall pinning Albert Corey in 1:58.
CNE’s final win of the dual came at 160, when Luke Rayburn pinned Cooper Dunn in 3:16. Bethel-Tate won the next five duals via pin, starting with Owen Holtke’s pin of David Pride in 3:30. Owen Mattes pinned Hunter Vires in 1:08, Nate Owens pinned Hayden Mattes in 3:18, Bradley Lewis pinned Steven Norton in 34 seconds, with Jayce Glenn pinning Tanner Jones in 1:59 to end the dual.
It took a bit longer than normal to determine the Tigers’ opponent in the finals. Blanchester trailed Brookville early 15-0, but rallied by winning seven straight matches to grab a 36-18 lead. Brookville won the 195 and 285-pound matches via forfeit, leaving the dual up to the bout at 220. Matt Hamm pinned Blanchester’s Christian Stubbs in 1:48, forcing a tie. Blanchester won the tiebreaker, most victories via pin or forfeit, to advance to the finals.
Yet again, Bethel-Tate dominated early. Reinert, Gutknecht and Sander all won their matches via pin, putting the Tigers ahead 18-0.
Blanchester roared back, with Andrew Frump pinning Harrison in 126 and Johnny Schirmer pinning Carter, both with less than one second left on the clock in the second period.
Whittington picked up a crucial win for the Tigers over Kadin Berwanger, securing a takedown with 18 seconds left to win the match 5-3. Bethel-Tate led the dual 21-12 at that point.
Gage Huston pinned Blakenship, cutting the Tiger lead to 21-18 after the 145-pound match. At 152, Matt Hall defeated Clayton Schirmer 7-2 to put the Tigers on top by six.
Blanchester tied it on the next dual, with Colt Conover pinning Cooper Dunn at 160. Owen Holtke defeated Ramiro Torress 9-2 at 170, a match that not only put the Tigers back on top but gave Holtke his 100th career win. Bethel-Tate head coach Tom Donahue said the victory by Holtke proves how well he has wrestled all season and is the latest in what could be a long line of Tigers to win their 100th match this year.
“That shows that he’s been pretty consistent throughout his four years,” Donahue said. “Hall did it earlier, and we have two more that are knocking on the door. Sander is sitting at 87 right now, and Lewis is at 83. They both have a shot. To get four guys to break 100 in a year, that’d be pretty phenomenal, but that’s just a stepping stone. Hopefully we continue to improve.”
Steven Latchford pinned Mattes in 3:13 at 182, giving the Wildcats a 30-27 lead with three classes remaining. In the 195-pound match, Nate Owens pinned Christian Stubbs, putting Bethel-Tate back on top for good. The Wildcats forfeited the final two matches of the dual, providing the 15-point margin.
Donahue said returning to the dual team tournament, while something the team will enjoy, can’t cause the team to lose sight of their goals.
“It feels pretty good,” Donahue said. “I told these guys coming in, if it happened, that we still have a lot of wrestling to do. It can’t be the highlight of the season. It’s not the only goal that we have. We can enjoy it, but we can’t be satisfied.”
Last season, the Tigers fell in the first round to Mechanicsburg, though the team did jump ahead 10-0 early as the eighth seed. Donahue said that experience caused the team to lose sight of the rest of the season, which ended with no Tigers qualifying for the individual state tournament.
“It was a wonderful experience, but they were so excited and happy and so overwhelmed that the rest of the season kind of slid a little bit,” Donahue said. “We have to stay focused this year.”
The Tigers returned to action one night later for senior night, hosting a tri-match with Wilmington and Bellbrook. Bethel-Tate swept the matches, defeating Bellbrook 58-12 and Wilmington 48-26.
That momentum carried the team into the Wyoming Duals on Saturday, Feb. 3. Matt Hall earned outstanding wrestler honors as the Tigers won the event, sweeping matches against Deer Park (78-6), Wyoming (75-6), Withrow (78-0) Roger Bacon (84-0) and Loveland’s B team (65-9).
Yet again, Bethel-Tate enters the team dual tournament as the eighth overall seed. The Tigers will wrestle top-seeded Genoa Area on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. at St. John Arena in Columbus.