Garaway’s fine wrestling campaign continued to streak along as the Div. III wrestling sectional at Sandy Valley kicked off the tournament trail for hopefuls bent on taking the next step to districts.
Not only did Garaway send a whopping nine wrestlers on to the next level as district qualifiers, the Pirates racked up just enough points to claim the Division III sectional wrestling title at Sandy Valley on Saturday, February 25. The Pirates won the sectional crown by tallying 173 points, just nipping Inter-Valley Conference foe Ridgewood, which compiled 170.5 in what turned out to be an extremely tight battle for the team crown. Host Sandy Valley placed third with 127.5.
“We thought it was going to be a battle between us and Ridgewood for the top spot,” said Garaway head coach Sedric Gerber. “It definitely was. We have a great relationship with Ridgewood, and we see them a lot throughout the year, and our kids and Ridgewood’s kids are friends, and they really get along well, as do our coaching staffs. But at this point, I think we are both itching to start facing some other wrestlers.”
While Ridgewood actually placed four individual champions compared to Garaway’s two, the Pirates’ depth again prevailed for the overall team title, as the Pirates placed seven other wrestlers in the top four.
Garaway’s Tanner Petitte (145-pounds/36-3 record) and Gunnar Angel (182/31-10) both battled into the finals and took home titles. Teammates Dylan Hershberger (138/20-8), Jerrod Hunt (160/31-11), Grant Hershberger (170/32-12) also fought their way into the finals, where they had to settle for second-place finishes. Pirates Ben Koshmider (120/20-17) and Dillon Rothacher (126/16-16) were third, while Christian Wright (152/13-17) and Weston Woods (195/24-18) both earned the fourth and final district qualifying spot.
Angel came through in the finals with a win over Harrison Central’s Blayne Erwin, and it took every last ounce of energy, as Angel pulled out a thrilling 3-2 win to claim the gold medal. “The biggest thing about Gunnar is sometimes he is his own worst enemy,” Gerber said. “He has such phenomenal athletic ability, but sometimes he will show up and not exhibit his offensive stuff. He has been working hard on expanding his offensive arsenal, and learning to trust and rely on that, and he did that in sectionals. He didn’t hold anything back, and he really went after kids.”
Meanwhile, Petitte bested Newcomerstown’s Anthony Sanders (32-11) in the finals with a win by fall at 2:40. That marked the longest match of the tournament for Petitte, who won via fall in all of his matches. “We are seeing the Tanner of old,” Gerber said of Petitte, referring to his injury during football season that got him off to a sluggish start. “This is the Tanner who is confident in himself. I think at the beginning of the year he was really putting pressure on himself. He was taking offensive shots from anywhere and everywhere and putting himself into positions where he had to scramble. He has realized he doesn’t have to do that. He is taking his offense where it suits him best, and he wrestled tough in every single match.”
Hunt fell to Ridgewood’s Javon Merrill (35-6) in the finals, while Kasey Bethel (37-7) and Grant Hershberger went at it again after competing in the finals of the IVC championship bout, and just as was the case earlier, Bethel slipped by with a victory, this time another close call at 7-4.
Colton Bethel (106/41-2) topped Newcomerstown’s Gavin Weaver 2-0 in the finals, while Dylan Hershberger was pinned by Mark Johns of Edison at 1:32 in the finals, but his coach was nonetheless impressed with his effort. “Dylan’s consistency as a freshman has been really impressive, and he continues to perform at a high level,” Gerber said.
Rothacher won in his battle for third place with a 9-5 win over Kyre Smith of Toronto, while Woods was stopped at 2:05 by Ridgewood’s Nathaniel Thompson, and had to settle for fourth place. Wright also lost by fall in 49 seconds to Ridgewood’s Kevin Bethel in the fight for third and fourth place.
Suffering the unkindest cut were Garaway’s Lucas Maurer, A.J. Henry of Tuscarawas Central Catholic and Garaway’s Cody Hostetler, who all took fifth place, one spot away from qualifying for districts.
“We are definitely peaking at the right time,” Gerber said. “To have nine district qualifiers is great. Our kids are doing a nice job of not giving away matches and staying competitive. We are walking out on the mats believing that we can win.” At this stage of the game, it is all about moving as many wrestlers as possible on to the next level. Gerber said that since these kids were competing in the youth program, they have dreamed about getting a shot to wrestle at the state tournament. That time arrives at Coshocton High School March 3-4.
“That is every wrestlers dream to represent yourself and your school at the state tournament,” Gerber said. “But when you hit that district level, funny things can happen. The pendulum can swing your way or against you, so we will go in hoping to control the things we can control. A lot of kids get hung up looking down the road at possibilities that may never happen. The only thing you can do is control what you can control. You go in to each match and not hold anything back, and do what you do best.”