Clermont County’s high school varsity wrestling teams are hard at work preparing for their respective conference tournaments.
Southern Buckeye Conference
The Southern Buckeye Conference (SBC) Tournament will take place Feb. 10 at Clermont Northeastern High School. There will not be two separate division titles decided. The American and National divisions will be combined into one tournament.
Head coach Zak Ison, himself a former Clermont County League mat champion and district qualifier during his prep days at Clermont Northeastern, is leading a very young squad.
“There’s not much difference between Blanchester and Western Brown for first place in the league tournament. New Richmond will be a close follow-up,” he said.
Ison’s son, Josh (285-pounds), a senior, and Larry Smith (119), a junior, are those whom the Bulldog mentor believes he has the best chances of winning individual conference crowns.
“We want to see our kids reach the goals they have set for themselves. It may not be at the league tournament, but we hope it will come then or in the sectionals,” Ison said.
"Blanchester and Western Brown don't have too much separating them. They both have a lot of good kids and field full teams," said Adam Sayer, the first-year head coach of the Tigers, concerning the outcome of the league tourney.
"We're preparing for the tournament. We're young, though. Eight of our 12 wrestlers are freshmen and sophomores. Our goal is to be the best we can be."
The coach of the Red and Gray feels he has three respectable shots for an individual weight class champion - sophomore Cory Disbennett (125), sophomore Sean Adams (140 or 145), and senior Roger Boucher (171). Senior Jacob Lasley (215) is considered by his coach to be a legitimate darkhorse for a crown.
"We've been in some tough tournaments. Overall, we're getting progressively better," said Scott Wells, head coach of the Rockets.
He's hoping his squad responds well to being the host team for the SBC Tournament.
"I'd like us to be on the upper end in the league and have at least one individual champion," said Wells. He forecast Western Brown and Blanchester as being the best teams in the SBC.
The Rockets' coach believes his charges' best shots at capturing an individual weight class championship belong to freshman Josh McGowan (160), "much improved" senior Danny Loch (171), senior Chris Distler (189), and senior Bill Distler (215). The Blue and Gold's "darkhorse sleepers" will be freshman Hunter Bixler (119) and junior Scott Simpson (135).
"The league will be tough," said Warrior first-year head coach Dallas Rise, himself a former Fort Ancient Valley Conference mat champion and a state qualifier during his prep days at Goshen.
"The tournament will be a lot better this year. There are more teams with a full or close to a full line-up. There won't be nearly as many byes and forfeits this year."
Rise foresees Western Brown and Blanchester as the cream of the crop in the SBC Tournament.
"We should do all right. Our team is very competitive," said Rise.
A couple of Warrior wrestlers could very well emerge as individual weight class winners - seniors Kenny Stephens (119) and Ryan Giltz (285). Strongly considered darkhorse candidates are junior Mark Gliszczynski (130), junior Greg Brusman (152), junior Jeff Miller (171), senior Mark McAninch (189), and senior Rob Weidle (215).
Head coach Deron Shinkle will be leading his Lions into Owensville with what he believes is an outside shot to win, but "Western Brown and Blan have been beating the heck out of everybody all year. We'll have some placers. We should finish third or fourth in the league."
Shinkle, who was a Miami Valley Conference champion and district qualifier when he wrestled at Batavia, figures he has four individuals who could possibly bring home the gold - junior Nick Samad (125), senior Jake Kools (152), senior Josh Hicks (189), and senior Alvis Williams (215). Darkhorse possibilities include sophomore Ben Heflin (130), sophomore Josh Daniels (135), and junior Luke Sexson (140).
"We have a decent tournament team that is improving," Shinkle said.
The Wildcats are fielding a very young, but improving contingent.
Said head coach Mark Isaac, "We're improving. We have seven freshmen in the line-up who are starting to wrestle better and they are scoring points.
"This year's team is a little deeper and tougher than recent teams we've had. I'd be pleased to finish in the middle of the league standings and to have an individual champion."
Isaac believes the finish of the top three teams in the SBC showdown will be, "in order, Blanchester, Western Brown, and New Richmond."
Junior Allen Schweickart (130), senior Ben Arnold (150), and junior John Lynch (285) are the Wildcats whom their coach believes will have the best chance to earn individual weight class crowns in the conference meet.
The non-Clermont County participants in the Southern Buckeye Conference are Blanchester's Wildcats, East Clinton's Astros, and Western Brown's Broncos. The Broncos are led by former SBC wrestling champion, state qualifier, and New Richmond graduate, Scott Smith.
The Fort Ancient Valley Conference Buckeye (FAVC-B) Division Tournament will take place at Winton Woods High School, Jan. 10.
Trojan head coach Nate Lynch expects the FAVC-B to be a much closer battle this year than in previous seasons.
"I expect Harrison to win it again, but there is going to be a lot more balance this year. Everyone has kids who can get to the finals," he said.
The Trojan taskmaster figures Mason and Loveland will be Harrison's main headaches to its way to defend its FAVC-B crown.
He indicated that the Purple and White's best chances for individual weight class crowns belong to senior Zac Carpenter (135) and junior Cameron Childs (152).
"Our whole team is a darkhorse possibility," Lynch said. "Our whole line-up is pretty solid. How we finish in the tournament actually depends on how we're doing on that particular day."
The non-Clermont County participants in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference Buckeye Division are Anderson's Redskins, Harrison's Wildcats, Loveland's Tigers, Northwest's Knights, and Winton Woods' Warriors
The Fort Ancient Valley Conference Cardinal (FAVC-C) Division Tournament will take place at Amelia High School, Jan. 10.
Baron head coach Tim Allen anticipates a wide open showdown at the barony with just about all of the six teams standing a chance of taking home the FAVC-C championship trophy. He is a former wrestling standout from Glen Este.
He favors Wilmington to win it all because "they have a full team." Kings should also be considered a serious contender because "they have some good wrestlers."
Allen has high hopes for his charges who have a plus going for them by grappling at home. "We could win it."
Amelia's brightest hopes to win individual titles are senior Vincent Mulvaney (112), sophomore Tommy Fehring (125), and senior Craig Neal (135). Some of the outside chances to win it all are Derek Harvey (103) and Ronnie Eikelberger (125).
The non-Clermont County participants in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference Cardinal Division are Kings' Knights, Little Miami's Panthers, Turpin's Spartans, Walnut Hills' Eagles, and Wilmington's Hurricanes.
The Greater Miami Conference (GMC) Tournament will take place at Oak Hills High School on Jan. 10.
Milford head wrestling coach Jim Costello expects the GMC tournament to be a vigorously contested showdown with most of the competing teams fielding good individual talent with prospects to win the gold in their respective weight class.
"Lakota West will be good and Fairfield is real strong," said Costello. "Princeton will be good, too...Oak Hills has some good individuals."
The Milford mentor is convinced his squad will be in the thick of the fight. "Hopefully we'll be at the top when its over," he said.
Many of Milford's matmen own good records - freshman Jared Burkhart (103), junior Zac Sherman (112), junior Chris Newberry (119), junior Kyle Krummert (125), junior Randy Burgdorf (140), freshman Caleb Megie (145), and senior George Emmons (215). Also strengthening the Eagles' line up will be the return of seniors T.J. O'Connell (171) and Dan Tepe (189).
The non-Clermont County participants in the Greater Miami Conference are Colerain's Cardinals, Fairfield's Indians, Hamilton's Big Blue, Lakota East's Thunderhawks, Lakota West's Firebirds, Middletown's Middies, Oak Hills's Highlanders, Princeton's Vikings, and Sycamore's Aviators.