COVINGTON — Covington High School has been extremely blessed over the years by having kids leave their mark on a program – not only through their accomplishments, but by the way they conduct themselves in and out of competition.
Covington senior Cael Vanderhorst is another in a long line of special individuals who have had a significant impact on Buccaneer athletics with his accomplishments on the wrestling mat and the football field, as well as in the classroom.
And he will take his talents to Ohio Northern University this fall as he made his official commitment recently with his parents Eric and Wendy Vanderhorst by his side, along with his siblings Chase and Ramse.
Cael will compete as part of the Polar Bear wrestling program under legendary coach Ron Beaschler, who has been at Ohio Northern University for 33 years.
“I had a lot of options,” Cael, who plans to be a Mechanical Engineering major, said in regards to collegiate opportunities. “Ohio Northern was a good fit with my major and in the sport of wrestling. I like the small campus and the wrestling program with the coaches they have. It’s a great fit for me.”
There has always been a strong emphasis on academics in the Vanderhorst household and Cael has thrived in that environment as evident by his academic standing at Covington High School.
He will graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point-average and as one of the three valedictorians in the Class of 2021.
This led to academic scholarships awarded by Ohio Northern to assist Cael financially as he pursues his dreams at the collegiate level.
“Ohio Northern is division three and they can’t award athletic scholarships, but Cael was able to receive academic scholarships,” said Cael’s father and high school wrestling coach Eric Vanderhorst. “We are really blessed with the way Cael was able to balance academics and athletics in high school and his time management habits should help him a lot through college.”
Time management was critical to Cael’s success in high school as he was a two-sport athlete in football and wrestling.
On the football field under coach Tyler Cates, Cael was a part of three state playoff teams in his four seasons and had high expectations of entering his senior season as the starting quarterback. Unfortunately Cael suffered a broken foot prior to the season opener and was forced to watch from the sideline the entire year.
Yet, Cael used the experience to showcase his leadership qualities as he didn’t miss a single game his senior season – all the while rehabbing his injury in preparation for wrestling season.
“That says a lot about this character,” Eric said in regards to the way Cael handled the injury. “He turned a negative into a positive and came back even stronger. We are blessed it turned out the way it did.”
Cael returned from his football injury to cap a very impressive high school wrestling career with a fourth straight trip to state and a third state medal by taking fourth at 138 pounds.
He likely would have joined Andrew Dehart as the only Covington wrestlers to place four times at the state meet if the state tournament wasn’t cancelled due to COVID-19 in his junior year.
Still, Cael concluded his career as one of the top wrestlers in the 50-year history of Covington wrestling as he accumulated 197 career wins – second only to Ryan Ford’s 201 career wins. Plus, Cael accumulated program-bests with 117 career pins and 1081 career team points.
He also stamped his name in the top ten in several other categories in the history of Buccaneer wrestling.
“I feel pretty satisfied with what I was able to accomplish in high school,” Cael said. “Obviously I wanted to win a state title, but it never materialized. But, I feel pretty good about my career.”
And so does his parents.
“He had a great career,” said his mother Wendy. “He is a great example of working hard to achieve your goals. He put his time in to be good academically and athletically.”
“He had a great high school career,” agreed his father and coach Eric. “We are extremely proud of Cael, not only because of his accomplishments, but with the way he always carries himself.”
Cael has always had extremely high expectations for himself and has been driven to accomplish his goals, something he plans to continue once he arrives at Ohio Northern University.
“The ultimate goal is to win a national title (NCAA Division III),” he said. “Step one is to go in and win a starting spot. From there, continue to improve and take it one step at a time.”
And Cael has already began preparing himself for the collegiate level by grappling with wrestlers who have competed at that level.
“I wrestle with Ryan Ford (Cleveland State) and I have wrestled a little bit with Micah Jordan (Ohio State),” Cael explained. “I also wrestle a good bit with Jarred (Ganger), who was a three-timer (Three-Time State Champion) and wrestled in college. Those guys are all really, really good.”
Competition is something Cael thrives on, which will hopefully give him confidence once he takes to the mat in a Polar Bear uniform.
And his family is looking forward to being able to watch him in person as much as possible, which will be easier considering how close to home Ohio Northern is to Covington.
“It really helps a lot that Ohio Northern is close to home,” said Wendy. “Of course, we would go anywhere to watch him, but it is nice Cael will be closer to home.”
Being the head wrestling coach at Covington and having another son (Chase) still in the program and a daughter (Ramse) to follow, the proximity to Ohio Northern is extremely beneficial to Eric.
“Oh, it really helps,” Eric said. “Obviously we won’t be able to make it to all of his matches, but we will be able to see more than if he was farther away. Plus, they will be streaming a lot of his matches, so we will be able to watch online if we can’t make it in person.”
And hopefully witness Cael have a huge impact on the Polar Bear wrestling program like he did as a Covington Buccaneer.