COLUMBUS — Two Miami Trace wrestlers remained in contention to place at the 77th annual State Wrestling Individual Wrestling Tournament on Friday morning.
Russell Miller won his first bout at State with a last-second take down against Kaz Struna of Mentor Lake Catholic. He was then finished for the day and set to compete again Friday morning against the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Division II 170-pound wrestler in the state.
Seth Williams of Tiffin Columbian won his first match by a fall to up his record to 38-0. Miller countered with a 29-4 record with losses to very highly-regarded wrestlers by narrow margins. Austin Reese (Mechanicsburg), Issac Bast (Massillon Perry), Benjamin Schramm (Bellbrook) and Jimmy Sandlin (Carlisle) are wrestlers whose credentials include a State Champion, two third place finishes at State and a seventh place finish at State. Williams is a three-time place winner with a runner-up finish in 2013. Miller sees good competition frequently.
The other Miami Trace wrestler who remained alive in the tournament was Trent Duffy. He split a pair of bouts on Thursday, winning his second match in overtime to be able to continue in this, his senior year, at State.
He would wrestle against a familiar opponent in Lane Peters of Claymont. The family name of Peters is synonymous with wrestling in Urichsville. Mel Peters led the program to prominence in the early 1970’s. His eight sons all competed for the Claymont wrestling program. They were all very good wrestlers. The grandsons are arriving and Lane is one of them. Duffy defeated Peters by a 2-0 decision at the Top Gun Tournament. This is a new season when you are at the State.
Peters represented a team desperately trying to unseat the perennial champion St. Paris Graham team with what is considered to be the best of all Claymont teams of the past including their 1992 State Champion team.
The moment came for Miller to enter mat No. 10 to attempt to topple Williams in their championship quarterfinals match.
The first period went scoreless as both wrestlers were hesitant to attack. Miller scored first in the second period with an escape. Leading 1-0, he was content to sit on the lead.
The score remained in Miller’s favor as the third and final period started. This time Williams started in the down position. He soon scored an escape to tie the match at 1-1.
It was Williams who went on the offensive on the feet. He could not penetrate the defenses of Miller, but he earned a call from the referee to warn Miller for stalling. Three times Miller would would get in deep on take down attempts lifting one of his opponent’s legs off the mat. He just could not finish the move for a crucial take down. With 15 seconds remaining in the bout, Williams hit a golden blast double that sent Miller to the mat. The referee called the take down as the pair went out of bounds. Miller wasted no time in escaping but could not score as he lost the bout, 3-2.
“We must keep moving on the feet,” commented head coach Jack Anders after the match. “Russell can wrestle with anyone in the state. He just did not finish his moves with authority. He paused for a second and a good wrestler like Williams adjusted. You cannot take anything away from him.”
Assistant coach Randy Ater remarked on the importance of movement on the feet at this level.
“We need to create angles,” Ater said. “You do that by moving on the feet. Russell is at his best when he is moving.”
After the match, the junior 170-pound wrestler was upset with himself.
“I need to refocus,” Miller said. “That’s all I can do. I won’t let that ever happen again.”
Angry, but knowing he had another match looming later in the day, Miller pulled on his sweats like a man on a mission.
He knew exiting the interview room his opportunity to beat an undefeated, top-ranked wrestler had evaporated. He was looking ahead to a wrestler he has defeated four times in his career.
Tye Smith of Washington would be his next opponent. The winner would stand on the podium on Saturday evening placing between 8th and as high as 3rd.
Before an epic Miller versus Smith match would occur, Trent Duffy needed to take care of business against Lane Peters of Claymont. Claymont was right in the hunt for the State title, pushing Graham for the lead. Would that extra incentive for Peters be an asset or another possible stressor on their 113-pound wrestler?
That answer came to be known in period one with Duffy deep into a double leg take down attempt. Peters managed to counter and reverse the situation to his favor and earn a two-point take down.
The points were crucial as the Claymont wrestler extended the lead to 3-0 with a second period escape.
Trailing 3-0, Duffy could not manage an escape in the third period as Peters rode the legs and kept the Panther wrestler entrenched on the mat. Time ran out on mat No. 6 for Duffy. The 3-0 loss prevents him from a third consecutive State placement. He dropped his head to the mat as the referee blew his whistle to signify the end of the match.
A tremendous high school wrestling career for Trent Duffy ended at the Jerome Schottenstein Center Arena Friday afternoon.
Duffy has been victorious in over 120 matches, including multiple titles at the McDonald’s/Miami Trace Invitational, the SCOL and Sectional Tournaments.
The three-time State qualifier and leader by example completed his stellar high school career. Emotions ran high as he exited the wrestling area and met his father, Josh, in the hallway near the interview room. Tears flowed and a father’s assuring voice resonated, “It’s all right.” Father and son hugged. The constant support over the years is something that Trent Duffy certainly appreciated.
“My dad put me into this program when I was little,” Duffy said. “I cannot thank him or Coach Anders enough. My mom is my biggest fan. Storm (Trent’s younger brother) has a lot to live up to.”
Dad spoke next about the benefits of wrestling.
“Wrestling will help you out with anything in life,” Josh Duffy said. “The toughness, discipline, and respect you learn are important. I could not be more proud of my son.”
Duffy expressed his most satisfying moment in his career and it was a selfless statement.
“My highlight in my career has been seeing my teammates succeed,” Duffy said. “I wish the team and coach Anders the best next year. I plan to go to college and hopefully wrestle. Thanks especially to Bryson Laytart for all his help. He better be on the podium next year.”
The 113-pound wrestler was about to exit the room when head coach Jack Anders spoke about this graduating senior and what he has meant to the team.
“If you go back through the years, you know, Trent was a high energy guy who wrestled with enthusiasm,” Anders said. “Whether he won or lost, he wrestled to his ability. It has been a pleasure to coach him. I have so many good memories of him competing. Sometimes we come up a little bit short but that doesn’t take away anything from his successes.”
The final match of the day for Miami Trace would be Russell Miller’s match in the consolation round against Brendan Winning of Ravenna.
He was a first-round casualty, losing to the same wrestler who defeated Miller at last week’s District Final match (Jimmy Sandlin of Carlisle). Winning had wrestled his way back with two key wins over Zach Gibson of Bloom Carroll and a thrilling overtime victory against Lane Thomas of Graham by a 9-7 score in the consolation rounds.
Miller turned a corner on Friday morning in his wrestling career.
Experience is the best teacher and he learned an invaluable lesson in his loss to Seth Williams. He is even better than he thinks and when he wrestles with confidence, he is an exceptional talent capable of defeating all comers.
The look of fierce determination was evident on the Miami Trace wrestler. He was now wrestling on a new plane of ability. Winning found that out early in the match. Miller was successful with all of his weapons, getting a quick take down to lead 2-0. He stretched the lead to 3-0 with an escape in period two. The lead went to 5-0 with yet another take down by Miller. He cruised to a 7-2 win and moved a bit higher on the podium.
“The coaches told me to move more on the feet,” Miller explained. “I worked on that in this match. The further you go in this tournament, the better the kids you will wrestle. I am getting more confidence I can compete with these guys.”
Anders agreed with that assessment.
“That was the match we have been waiting to see Russell Miller wrestle,” Anders said. “He got busy on the feet and never let that guy get comfortable.”
Miller already made weight for Saturday and he planned to eat well and rest much the remainder of the evening. He would need rest to help prepare himself to compete again on Saturday for a possible third place finish. Ahead are two more tough kids who have an equal desire to finish strong. Assistant coach Randy Ater concluded with a simple statement.
“Get third, Russell.”