Ohio State Tournament Memories
The week of the Ohio state wrestling tournament is always a special week for me and all of my family and friends. It is a tradition that has been alive in my family since the 1960’s since when my dad and uncles wrestled for Oregon Clay High School. Now I attend the tournament and watch the special things that unfold in kid’s lives, and moments that they will remember forever. I want to recap some of my favorite moments of the tournament through out history of attending or watching from afar. This weekend brought a new favorite moment and it will stick with me the rest of my life.
#5 Dustin Carter
My first year covering the event with Martin Floreani came with one of my favorite moments and it was not a wrestling match, it was a moment when Hillsboro senior Dustin Carter was recognized by the entire Schottenstein Center at the Ohio State University. Dustin found a way to make the tournament and win a match. He was impressive and lost his bout to place and still had a positive outlook after the tournament. He impressed me with his maturity and dealing with the most obvious thing about him, that he has no arms or legs. I saw a video of him doing his day to day activities like brushing his teeth, and going to class, and shaving and yet he did it without arms or legs. People like Dustin inspire me to get up and do what I do everyday. He also influences me to fight through tough situations, that may not really be that tough of situations, beings that I have all of my limbs and still struggle to do things that he did. What Dustin shows me is that at times you get a raw deal in life and you have choices: give up and allow yourself to fail, or overcome all odds and make a state tournament, win a match, and live your life. Dustin chose the latter and it makes me smile every time I think about him and that moment of him in the Schott made my day, and it still inspires me today.
#4 Monroeville 4
Watching the Monroeville kids win titles was awesome. These kids have been working with Coach Erik Burnett since they were little kids. Of all the things that I have seen out of them Chris Phillips Finals match as a 9th grader was by far the most impressive. It was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen and was the most savage beating in the history of the tournament. A ninth grade Chris Phillips beat JD Smyers, a tough senior, by technical fall in the state finals. It was one of the most amazing moments I have ever seen in (Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati) any state location venue in the state of Ohio history. Phillips showed an amazing combination of everything that you need to be a champion. Chris has had a recent hiccup but his talent is still there and I am pulling for him. This entire process of these four kids winning a total of 16 titles over a 5 year period was unheralded. Knowing them and watching them grow up was phenomenal. Every Logan Stieber performance to this date amazes me. Today I watched him win a Big 10 title and it was so awesome. I have never seen Logan celebrate (Ramos did not like his celebration), but his Big Ten Title is much deserved. Hunter Stieber had flashes of brilliance in Columbus at the state tournament and his finals performance every year were amazing. I literally feel that no one I know has a bigger heart in all of wrestling than Hunter Stieber, I have seen him take beatings from his brother that would make a normal person quit the sport. His college career will be equally amazing. Cam Tessari is one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch and he had a Ohio State finals match that gave his family gray hairs. His sophomore finals was epic, back points exchanged back and forth and it was just impressive. He is a pleasure to watch and made the state tournament an excellent experience every year.
Upsets that come to mind are Sam White of Massillon Perry over Jamie Clark of St. Edward, Brian Roddy of St. Edward over Dustin Kilgore of Berea, Jeffry Pelton of Bellevue over Ben Jordan of Graham, Oscar Santiago of Canfield over Ty Morgan of Graham, Brian Haring of Twinsburg over Nick Cianciola of Genoa, and the greatest upset that never was: Tony Jamison of Austintown Fitch over Rudy Hendon of Bowling Green. In Ohio we normally have great semi final and final matches. But as of late I have noticed that some officials protect certain wrestlers, maybe someone going for a fourth title, like Jamison in the Hendon match in the 2008 state tournament in Ohio. This is bad for the sport if you ask me. People need to know that anyone can beat anyone, its essential for our state to move forward and for wrestlers like Rudy Hendon to accomplish their dreams and have athletes work forward towards their goals. Many of the upsets speak for themselves. Hands down the greatest upset is the Haring over Cianciola match in the 1989 state finals in Division Two in Ohio. This match was ridiculous and an example of an official not afraid to call a fall on a wrestler going for his third title. Nick Cianciola is a close family friend of mine and this one personally hurt, but you have to respect Haring for chasing his dream of catching and pinning Cianciola. I saw the same type of match the other night where Garret Gray of Oregon Clay was unable to overcome the mighty Nick Tavanello of Wadsworth who was going for his third state title, but this match was not the same type of match of Haring VS Cianciola. Gray VS Tavanello was more of a quick judgment call rather than a haymaker thrown in desperation like Haring did to Cianciola. Say whatever you want, but upsets are good for the sport and need to continue to happen. They also make the most memorable experience, whether its good or bad for you personally.
#2 My Family
The Miller Family has been a fixture at the state tournament since the 1960’s, when my dad and uncles were either in the tournament series or attending it. Then came the 1980’s when my two oldest brothers both won state titles for Oak Harbor High School. When my brother Ferd won in 1986 and 1987, I knew that is what I wanted to do. Chad Miller was next, winning a title match he should not have been in, let alone won. Chad is a fighter and the fight he showed in 1989 has stuck with him throughout his life. Then in 1995 my brother Tait came out of nowhere and won a title in D2 at 135 lbs. I never really felt any pressure to win a title from my family, I just knew it was going to happen for me. I did all the right things, stayed away from parties, trained hard and wrestled year round. However it was not meant to be for me. After a devastating loss in the semifinal, I then lost again and was able to manage what seemed like a very disappointing finish. I was 5th in Division Two in 1998 in Ohio and it is something I have to live with the rest of my life. But something that happened to me as a senior in high school changed my life for the better. I look back at it and I most likely would not have wrestled in college had I been a state champion. It’s a fact and I have to live with it and help others in my family learn and get better, which brings me to the most exciting aspect of wrestling to me right now, the young Millers. Moving forward into the new generation of Millers I am so excited to watch them challenge to win titles and really enjoy the sport of wrestling. I could sit and talk about how exciting Ian Miller is, and how fun he is to watch. But win or lose he is dynamic, and last year he gave me a great memory, unfortunately it was in a loss. How he handled his D2 finals loss in 2011 was one of the best actions I have ever seen an athlete take in defeat. No cursing, no screaming, no headgear throwing, just a couple of handshakes and a lot of time to think about what he would change to get to the next level. It seems like he has made a nice transition and the loss was good for him. My family is the most important aspect of my life and they define who I am as a person and they are the reason that I am so heavily involved in covering the OHSAA State tournament. It is the greatest tournament in the world and more people need to see it and have access to it. They were my number one moment when thinking about this before this past weekend, the next memory will sit with me forever and it was the ultimate act of love.
#1 Bubba Andrews and Chris Moore
Growing up I competed in the Sandusky Bay Conference and our fierce rivals were the Clyde Fliers. Although we could not beat the Fliers, and Chad Long made my brother Tait and I his stepchild frequently, I still respected them. It was kind of weird because we were supposed to hate them, but we did not. It was a bizarre connection we had with the people of Clyde, I think that it was their blue collar mentality that was like our blue collar upbringing. The town of Clyde has a Whirlpool Factory in it and a majority of the parents of the athletes work there. My dad was a union Ironworker and my uncles were pipe-fitters, so that is my only real thought for the positive relationship we had with the Clyde folks. The Fliers won a team title in 1995, the same year my brother Tait was state champion, so that was another time we shared a common moment together. I grew up with Clyde-great Big Tim Anderson and watched him win two state titles, one where he almost killed his coach after the match. Then there was the Clyde-genius, Doug West winning a title with some last second heroics. Those were all great moments for the Fliers, but their greatest moment in my opinion came this week in the Division Two 170 pound state final. This moment is so great for me and took roots with knowing the Fliers and their fans, families and athletes for the last twenty plus years. Chris Moore made the state finals at 170 pounds and had some real inspiration to win. His idol and hero Bubba Andrews was on hand to watch and cheer him on. Bubba was a former state placer for the Fliers in 2008 where he finished fifth, with two, two point losses to Max Thomuseeit of Graham (Now Pitt Panthers). Bubba was always butting heads with Cody Magrum of Oak Harbor and always made the match competitive. Bubba was also a standout on the gridiron for the Fliers, to put it plain and simple, Bubba Andrews was a stud. I coached a team in 2004 with a host of great middle and elementary school wrestlers on it. It was a who’s who of wrestlers in Ohio which included the following studs: Bubba Andrews, Keith and Konner Witt, Aric Thurn, Ian Miller, Cody Magrum, Zach and Cody Garbrandt and Wade Ishmael amongst others. It was great a experience and made me even closer to the Clyde Flier family. I was able to follow all of the Fliers as they competed against the Oak Harbor Rockets. The friends and families were always so cordial and made you feel like family when you were around them. After the 2008 state tournament I had not seen Bubba, but I had seen his parents and brothers who wrestled my nephew Ian. So, Saturday night the Fliers had another finalist in Chris Moore at 170 lbs. Little did I know the shape that Bubba was in. Bubba has been fighting a brain tumor since 2010, and has recently run into some complications. He continues to fight. Last week he witnessed one of the greatest things a Clyde Flier could see, another Flier win a state title. Bubba had a mat-side seat to see Moore, who credits Andrews as his inspiration, win a title. It was the most powerful thing that I have ever seen at the Ohio State Tournament. It made me be thankful for everything that I have in my life. It made me think of how lucky I was to have had Bubba Andrews and the Clyde people in my life. The fact that Bubba could essentially see his little brother win a title, and know that he was a part of the start of Chris Moore’s wrestling career was priceless to me. It made me feel like Bubba could see a great moment that he may not be around for next year. Whether Bubba wins his fight, or Chris Moore repeats next year as a senior, their moment changed my life and shows how powerful this tournament is, and how it can affect our lives both positively and negatively.