By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Troy Christian’s eight state-qualifying wrestlers still spent the weekend together.
Just not where they would have liked.
“I took it upon myself to get everyone together this weekend, even if we couldn’t be together for the tournament,” Troy Christian senior Ethan Turner, a four-time placer that won an individual championship his sophomore year, said. “I wanted to try to help mentor everyone and try to help them through it, help them realize that we still have each other.
“This team is just so close — which is what made this all even harder.”
Last week, the OHSAA made the decision to postpone the Division III state wrestling tournament indefinitely to protect athletes, fans, workers and everyone possible from the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, putting the brakes on the three-day tournament the day before it was supposed to begin.
Which was especially tough on the Eagles, given they felt like they could have won the program’s fifth team championship and first since 2013.
“We were just about to weigh in,” senior Craig Montgomery said. “I think we could have come back with the title this year. We put in a ton of work and energy, we were all ready to compete .. and things just didn’t line up.”
And with so many qualifiers, the reactions were varying levels of disappointment, anger and sadness.
“As a team, our goal was to win a state title, which we definitely would have done,” a frustrated senior Andrew Shaffer said. Shaffer did not compete in last year’s D-III tournament but placed seventh at the D-II tournament as a sophomore for Graham, which won the D-II team title that year.
“I’m kind of upset still, but things happen for a reason. We’re all starting to get over it,” junior Austin Awan said. Awan placed sixth at last year’s tournament. “We still put our faith in God and believe that He has a greater power over all things. I’m still upset because we had a good shot at that title, which I believe we would have won. I think we all believe that. But we’re coming together more as a family after all this, and that’s helping us stay strong and get through this.”
“It was depressing,” sophomore Troy Kennedy said. Kennedy placed seventh last year. “It just put us all in a bad mood. But we all hung out together over the weekend for some team bonding, and that helped. But when I first heard? I didn’t believe it. I went and googled it myself because I didn’t think it was real. Coach called us all in to talk that Thursday, and it was a sad moment. He started tearing up, and a lot of the guys started crying.
“We were training real hard all year, no one was ever stopping at practice. We were all pumped to go and get that shot at a title.”
“We were going to make a run at that state title, so it’s very rough,” senior Caleb Schroer said. Schroer placed fifth at last year’s tournament. “It felt like everything we’d worked for had been washed away. The coaches talked to us on Friday, though, and told us that we weren’t only wrestlers, that we had other identities, and that picked us up a little.”
And while most would say it’s hard on the seniors with it being their final chance in high school, it’s also difficult for the freshmen, who will miss out on the experience for a year.
“When I first found out, I was pretty disappointed,” freshman Connor Havill said. “We’ve been through a lot as a team this year, and we’ve worked so hard. We were all pretty devastated. I’m a freshman and I’ve got three years left, but getting that tournament experience would have been important moving forward.”
“I still disappointed, because I was really hyped for it,” freshman Jason Shaffer said. “And that’s the thing — I think I had a pretty good shot at being a four-time champion, and now that chance has been taken away from me.”
And while the tournament is, as of Tuesday, still only postponed and theoretically still could happen, there are a lot of things that need to fall into place for that to be a possibility — and even if it did, things would be different. Both Shaffers said that they needed to have surgery soon and likely wouldn’t be able to wrestle if the tournament did happen, and the other Eagles said that coming off of a lengthy break would be difficult.
“I do think it’s possible, but there’d be so many hoops to jump through for them to set up the tournament again,” Montgomery said. “I believe it’s possible, but it’s unlikely.”
“If the tournament happens, that’s be great, but personally, I was on fire, and it just felt like I had all the momentum,” Schroer said. “But now, even if they have the tournament, that momentum will be hard to get back. I don’t think I would wrestle the way I would have if the tournament had happened when it was scheduled.
“My mom compared it to a baseball game. If you’re down in the last inning and you start coming back but then the rain comes, and then there’s delays, and then the game is suspended and rescheduled, you’re going to have a totally different outcome than if you’d just kept going because of the momentum you had.”
Still, the team is trying to hold out hope while also planning for the worst — the OHSAA plans on holding a press conference at noon Thursday.
“At first, it was really hard news to take,” Montgomery said. “But now, we have a better understanding, and even maybe a little accepting, approach to it.”
“If it did happen, I’d be ecstatic,” Kennedy said. “I’d hope we could get a pound allowance on our weights, honestly. But right now I’m still training on my own and trying to get bigger, and I’m working for next year.”
“It’s still possible, even if there’s just a slim chance,” Awan said. “It’s be amazing if it happened. It’d be a miracle.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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