By Garth Shanklin
The Bethel-Tate Tigers’ wrestling team made history on their home mats Wednesday, Feb. 1. With victories over Clermont Northeastern and Preble Shawnee, the Tigers advanced to the state quarterfinals of the team dual tournament for the first time in school history.
It was not an easy task. The team started the night with a bout against fellow Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference foe CNE.
After a double-forfeit in the 106-pound class, the Tigers took an early 6-0 lead thanks to a forfeit by the Rockets at 113.
Sam Patterson put the Rockets on the board, defeating Justin Royer in the 120-pound match 4-1. Mike Whittington extended the Tigers’ lead to 10-3 with a 9-1 major decision win over CNE’s Tyler Conley at 126.
The Rockets pulled within a point thanks to Foster Kuntz’ pin of Robby Perkins in the 132-pound match.
The Tigers won the next three matches via forfeit. Matt Hall (138), Jacob Petri (145) and Jonah Blankenship (152) earned the victories in their respective class for the Tigers, who held a 28-9 lead.
That lead was cut to 28-15 after CNE’s Luke Rayburn was named the victor in the 160-pound match due to the disqualification of Bethel-Tate’s Ryan Peters.
In the 170-pound class, Bethel-Tate’s Jordan Newberry pinned CNE’s Austin Horrell with just two seconds left in their bout.
The Tigers won two more matches via forfeit, with Tyler Bushcard and Wyatt O’Neil picking up victories in the 182 and 195 pound classes, respectively.
Bethel-Tate’s Bradley Lewis pinned CNE’s Luke Newton and Kermit Beckworth pinned Joey Groeber, giving the Tigers their final 12 points in what became a 58-15 victory.
The win set up a regional final tilt between Bethel-Tate and Preble Shawnee. The Tigers forfeited the 106-pound class. Trey Sander quickly evened the score, pinning Jayden Dobbins in 1:12 to tie the match at six.
Preble Shawnee took an 11-6 lead after Cameron Neal defeated Royer via tech fall (20-4). Whitington responded with an 11-3 major decision win over Kage Worley, pulling the Tigers within one point at 11-10.
Preble Shawnee added to that margin, earning a win in the 132-pound class when Travis Tatum pinned Perkins. Hall answered the call for the Tigers, pinning Logan Duncan to pull the Tigers back within one point at 17-16.
Bethel-Tate regained the lead after Blankenship’s 10-2 major decision victory over Cayne Grimme in the 145-pound class, but the Arrows responded with back-to-back pins to pull ahead 29-20 entering the 170-pound match.
Newberry again came through with a late pin, defeating Bryson Trantanella with just 14 seconds remaining in the match. The Tigers won the 182-pound match via an Owen Holtke pin of Jordan Stubbs.
In the 192-pound tilt, O’Neil defeated Preble Shawnee’s Tanner Crabtree via pin, giving the Tigers a 37-29 lead.
The Arrows set up a winner-take-all bout at 285 when Ty Stevenson pinned Lewis in 1:22 in the 220-pound tilt. Beckworth sealed the dual win and the regional championship by pinning Alex Steele.
Bethel-Tate head coach Tom Donahue acknowledged that the Tigers made a few errors on the mat, but regardless it was a big win for the program.
“We still left some points out on the mat,” Donahue said. “We made some mistakes, but this is a good win for the team.”
Newberry’s match in the 170-pound class seemed to be the turning point for the Tigers. Donahue said Newberry is still fighting back into form after an early injury.
“He’s had a rough year,” Donahue said. “He’s worked harder than anybody I’ve ever had on this team as long as I’ve been coaching. From last season all through the offseason, he went to a bunch of camps and wrestled all year. In the second tournament this season, he dislocated his elbow. He’s only been back for two weeks and he’s not 100 percent yet, so he’s a little bit rusty. He took advantage and swung the momentum our way, that was big.”
Donahue also credited Beckworth for defeating a tough opponent to clinch the match for the Tigers.
“He’s a gamer,” Donahue said. “He only started wrestling as a freshman, but the first time he came out we knew he was a competitor. Against a tough kid, the Preble Shawnee heavyweight is ranked in the state, and so is [Beckworth]. I figured it would be a good battle.”
Bethel-Tate’s busy dual week continued on Feb. 2 when the team hosted Turpin for senior night.
Hall won the first match via pin to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. After Petri fell via major decision, Bethel-Tate received victories from Blankenship, Newberry, O’Neil, and Beckworth. Royer also earned a win via pin in the 120-pound class for the Tigers, who defeated the Spartans 67-10.
The team returned to the mat on Friday, Feb. 3 for an in-school dual against Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference foe Western Brown. The Broncos won the dual 49-24, with Bethel-Tate’s Beckworth, O’Neil, Holtke and Peters all pinning their opponents.
Both Bethel-Tate and Western Brown qualified for the state dual tournament, held at St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
Bethel-Tate received the eighth overall seed in Division III and a match against Mechanicsburg at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12. For more on the Tigers’ first trip to the state tournament, pick up a copy of the Feb. 16 edition of The Clermont Sun.