Two Orrville Red Riders navigated the winding road to Columbus and embarked on a journey that led them all the way to the Div. III state wrestling tournament in Columbus at Value City Arena inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center March 8-10.
While sophomore Cameron VanBrunt found great success, working his way to the podium and All-Ohio status with an unlikely All-Ohio performance, senior Sam Auble’s dreams of doing the same came up just shy. But for these two Red Riders, the experience was one that will always stay with them.
Wrestling at 182 pounds, VanBrunt was unceremoniously dumped into the consolation round in his first match, where the Orrville sophomore met up with eventual state champion, undefeated (41-0) Daniel Beemer of Ottawa-Glandorf. Beemer used a series of quick moves to continually take down VanBrunt and sentenced him to the consys with a 16-1 technical fall.
Then VanBrunt went to work. He knocked off Nelsonville-York freshman Colten Snyder, winning by fall at 4:24. He took down Drake Dobson of Martin’s Ferry with a 7-1 decision, which meant he had secured a spot on the podium. VanBrunt would fall to Indian Lake’s Connor Dixon by fall at 2:21 and would drop his battle for seventh place by a 6-4 decision to Wil Morrow of Patrick Henry, but he had accomplished what he had set out to do, which was to wrestle well and earn a spot as an All-Ohioan.
“Being my first year down here, my biggest goal was to just come down here and get after it,” VanBrunt said.
As a lowly fourth seed coming out of districts, VanBrunt was not expected to compete for a spot on the podium, yet here he was, parlaying every ounce of strength and determination in his body to reach those heights.
“I think it comes down to simply wanting it more than the other guy sometimes,” VanBrunt said. “We have one of the toughest districts out there, so even though I was the four seed, I still felt like I had a shot at doing something special down here.”
Plus the idea of being the big underdog and fighting his way to upsets also is something he finds enticing.
“People see that and think, ‘Oh my gosh, how did he lose?’” VanBrunt said of stunning higher seeds. Snyder was a two seed, and Dobson was a one seed, so knocking off favorites was not foreign to VanBrunt.
As for the hoopla and bright lights surrounding the state wrestling meet, the Red Riders’ sophomore said it was a bit overwhelming at first, but he quickly settled in.
“It was a really big rush, but then I figured that these mats are the exact same size as ours, and I made it here, so I belong here as much as anyone,” VanBrunt said. “I just focused on attacking and staying focused and working as hard as I can out there.”
Auble didn’t quite get that far, but the 220-pound senior had been working his whole career to find his way to the state meet, and once there he cherished every moment of it.
“I am really proud of myself that I was finally able to make it here and end my career here at state,” Auble said. “There is such an amazing amount of talent down here. The kid I wrestled who knocked me out was a great wrestler. He deserved to be here; we all do. I am a little frustrated that I couldn’t go a little further, but being here was a huge goal for me.”
Auble opened up the tourney by losing to St. Joseph’s powerful Noah Price (41-4). Price churned out a workmanlike 11-3 major decision win over Auble, sending him into the consolation round.
Auble would then experience the thrill of a lifetime in winning a match at the state meet. He upended Bradley Lewis of Bethel-Tate with a win by fall at 4:54. His following bout ended in heartache when Auble fell to Nelsonville-York’s Donovan McCollister in a 5-3 sudden-victory overtime loss.
Falling to the wayside courtesy of a sudden-victory overtime loss was a difficult pill to swallow for the Red Riders’ senior, but that did little to dampen the spirit of a young man who has gained the respect of not only people in the wrestling world, but also anyone who meets him.
“Last year I thought I choked in the district tournament and didn’t make it down here, and that really motivated me a lot this year,” Auble said. “I came into this season very frustrated and determined not to let that happen again, and I used that to bring me to this level. It was a massive relief to finally break through and make it down to Columbus.”
Auble said this will more than likely mark his final competitive wrestling moment, and ending in Columbus is an awfully wonderful way to usher out a fantastic career.
“One day I wouldn’t mind coming back to coach, but just getting down here was absolutely amazing.”