Last updated: January 31. 2014 4:09PM - 511 Views
Dan Roberts Special for the Record-Herald

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During this long, cold winter we are experiencing, a trip south would be preferred than going northward into the bitter freezing weather of northern Ohio.

However, north is where the best competition in the sport of wrestling occurs in Ohio. The Alliance Top Gun Tournament is another noted wrestling tournament the Miami Trace Panthers enter each year.

The long drive and grueling two-day event is an outstanding way to put your wrestlers against not only the best in Ohio but from as far away as California!

Competing at the Top Gun is preparation!

It is preparation for the tournaments at the end of the season that gauge the success of a wrestler’s achievements against quality competition when it counts most. Those tournaments are the league, Sectional, District and State Tournaments. We tend to remember and celebrate the champions of those events for years to come.

“Top Gun” is aptly named. It is considered one of the best high school tournaments in the state. The 2014 version provided exactly what Miami Trace head coach, Jack Anders had in mind for his team.

“This is a very good tournament with teams like Clovis (CA) and Massillon Perry and Claymont participating,” Anders said. “Clovis is ranked number three in the nation. We matched up four times against them going, 2-2. I think we could have realistically won all four. It is two full days of intense competition. It is exciting. It is tough to come back the second day. We are not satisfied to just get here. Our goal is to have placers in the tournament.”

Miami Trace had four wrestlers place in the 43-team tournament held Jan. 17 and 18.

Heading the quartet was 170-pound junior wrestler, Russell Miller. Miller reached the finals before losing to Isaac Bast of Massillon Perry by a 3-2 decision. The second place finish matched Jordan Fraley’s accomplishment in 2012 when he placed second at 145 pounds.

Only Travis McIntosh has won a Top Gun title while competing for the Panthers. He defeated returning 215-pound State Champion Logan Erb of Wapakoneta. McIntosh beat him again in the Division II State Finals later in the season in 2012.

The second place finish impressed Anders.

“Russell can wrestle with anyone,” Anders said. “We told him he is in an elite group. Bast would never let him get comfortable in the match. Russell sometimes goes into a shell if he does not get that first takedown. He just cannot do that.”

Bast is considered the number one-ranked Division I 170 pound wrestler in the state. Miller got no reprieve from tough opponents as he lost another one point decision to Bellbrook’s Benjamin Schramm in the State Dual meet just four days later. Schramm was a third place finisher at the State Tournament in 2013 at 152 pounds.

Trent Duffy reached the podium placing fourth at 113 pounds. The senior made it to the semifinals. He lost there to eventual champion, Hayden Lee of Marysville, by fall. Duffy would win again in the consolation semifinals before losing his final bout of the tournament to a Clovis, California wrestler.

“The Marysville kid was really talented but I thought we could have beaten Clovis,” Anders said. “Trent was ahead 2-0 and working for a takedown when he got caught on a missed outside fireman’s move and pinned.”

Two upperweights for Miami Trace placed in the Top Gun. Travis Grooms (160) and Jerimiah Jones (195), both juniors for Miami Trace, placed sixth and seventh respectively in their weight classes.

Grooms reached the quarterfinals before losing on a late reversal. Anders felt his wrestler competed very well throughout the tournament. “Travis did very well even in matches he lost. He will build on what he has learned to help him later in the season.”

Jerimiah Jones turned around an early exit from the 2013 Top Gun into an excellent showing at this year’s tournament.

“Jerimiah does a very good job of applying what he learns in previous matches,” Anders said. “He wrestled a very good Clovis wrestler keeping the match close and winning it late. He was a bit worn out on the second day but this is why we go to these tournaments so when we are at the District on the second day we are very well prepared. We may have many losses on our records but we have seen really good competition.”

The only other Miami Trace wrestler with a winning record at the Top Gun was yet another member of the strong junior class for the Panthers. Bryson Laytart went 3-2 and narrowly missed placement at 132 pounds.

Cesar Avejas was 2-2 at 220 pounds. Trendon Fox (126), Brody Price (138), Austin Lovett (145), and Matthew Hottinger (182) all went 1-2.

Tim Chaney (106), Kevin Gustin (120), Austin Baughman (152) and Skylar Morris (285) went 0-2 at the tournament.

The weather did cooperate for the tournament and thankfully, wrestling is an indoor winter sport. Miami Trace got what it came to do and that is invaluable experience against solid competition. How it benefits them for the remainder of the season will be known soon as those end of the season tournaments come around quickly in February.

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