By Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
COVINGTON — For Covington wrestlers Cael Vanderhorst (120) and Kellan Anderson (126), it is not about getting on the podium at the Division III state wrestling tournament that begins Friday and concludes Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
It is about how high they climb on the podium Sunday.
“That’s always the goal,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “To finish as high on the podium as you can.”
And with good reason.
Cael Vanderhorst, a junior, is looking for his third straight trip on to the podium after finishing eighth as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore.
Anderson, also a junior, finished seventh as a freshman.
And both are at state for the third straight year.
“They know the routine,” Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst said. “They have been there before and will be comfortable. They won’t have the nerves. They both have high goals to do really well. They have wrestled the best wrestlers in the state. That is not always the case (when you get to state). There aren’t going to be any surprises and that is a good thing.”
And they don’t consume themselves with the draw.
“Our kids have always been very good about not looking too much (at who they wrestle),” Eric Vanderhorst said. “I am sure some of them look. But, you just have to take care of what you can control.”
Cael Vanderhorst set his goals high from the start of the season.
“The goal is to be state champion,” he said. “It has been the goal all year — now it (the state tournament) is here. It is time. The goal is always to get as high on the podium as you can.”
And the state tournament is a comfortable atmosphere for him.
“I think it (three-time state qualifier) helps with the nerves,” he said. “You are not as nervous.”
Vanderhorst, 44-6, will open the tournament against Jake Edelman, 31-4, of Andover Pymatuning Valley.
“I might look at who I am wrestling,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “It is OK (to know what kind of wrestler they are), but really, you just have to go out and wrestle your match.”
Vanderhorst is very familiar with one wrestler in his weight class.
Miami East’s Max Shore, 42-3, finished second at state last year and defeated Vanderhorst in the district finals.
“I think it does help us,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “I think we have to find different things to do every time we wrestle.”
And for the Vanderhorst family, this weekend is another chance to make family memories.
It is definitely a cool experience having my dad coach me,” Cael Vanderhorst said. “I guess you could say it is (a family weekend). Being at state and having my dad coach me. My brother and sister will be there too.”
Anderson, meanwhile, has been waiting a year for this weekend.
After finishing seventh as a freshman, he didn’t place at last year’s state tournament.
“I want to get back up on that podium so bad,” Anderson said. “I want to show that last year was a fluke and that was not me.”
Eric Vanderhorst said Anderson has used that to his advantage.
“Kellan had a couple matches that could have gone either way last year,” Vanderhorst said. “I am sure that has been a driving force for him this year.”
Anderson, 46-6, will open against Wes Radford, 41-9, of Albany Alexander.
“I don’t look at the brackets at all,” Anderson said. “You just have to go wrestle your match. I don’t even worry about that.”
Anderson is not your typical fourth-place district finisher. Both his losses at district were by default.
“I had an injury a couple weeks ago,” Anderson said. “I have been trying to do as little as possible. I think I will (be ready by Friday). I should be good to go.”
“We feel like we have been smart in the way we have handled the injury,” Vanderhorst said. “That has worked out pretty well so far.”
Anderson is not concerned about wrestling a district champion.
“I think our district was one of the toughest districts, so I don’t think (wrestling a district champion), it will be any tougher than some matches I have already had,” Anderson said. “I think it definitely is an advantage to having been through that atmosphere before.”
And Eric Vanderhorst knows his wrestlers have the right mentality for the state tournament — they are not happy just to be there.
“That is the ultimate goal (to be state champion),” Vanderhorst said. “You just have to stay focused and take it one match at a time.”
Because when it comes to success at the state tournament — Vanderhorst and Anderson have been there and done that.
Contact Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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