Going into the season, with seven freshmen and five sophomores starting, Defiance coach Pat Murphy had hoped his team could finish fourth in the Western Buckeye League standings in the regular season.
With a fourth place finish intact, Defiance hopes to at least finish fourth in the WBL tournament on Saturday, hosted by Lima Bath.
“Three teams – Wapakoneta, St. Marys and Celina – tied for first place and the tournament also looks to be wide open,” Murphy said. “Right now, I would favor St. Marys, but the other two are right in there, too. We have not wrestled well in the WBL tournament the last three years. But if we wrestle to our capabilities, we can finish at least fourth or even higher, for the possibility or a top three finish.”
Though there are always a lot of variables involved, like guys moving weight classes, in talking to coach Murphy, here are the early favorites in each weight class.
At 106, it should be a battle between St. Marys’ Tyler Hisey and Wapakoneta’s Colin Mellott. Defiance freshman Treven Rittenhouse has the possibility of finishing in third or fourth place.
At 113, St. Marys’ Trevor Hisey is the favorite, while a very physical wrestler, Lima Shawnee’s Aomsin Nongkham could battle for the top spot. Wapakoneta’s Bryce Knapke and Defiance’s Gavino Martinez could battle for the third and fourth spots.
At 120, Celina’s Nathan Wilson is the heavy favorite. Wapakoneta’s Keaton Elling, Elida’s James Speary and Lima Shawnee’s Ethan Morgan will grapple for the second through fourth spots. Defiance sophomore Lance Armstrong, with the appropriate draw, could score some points.
In the 126 pound class, Lima Shawnee’s Corey Beach is the favorite. Celina will have someone there who could place and Wapak’s Gavin Hall should also place. Defiance’s Carmela has an outside chance of scoring points.
At 132, Defiance’s Tristan Villarreal is the favorite, unless Elida’s Conner Douglass drops down to this class. Douglass beat Villarreal by one point early in the season, when the two grappled at 138.
“If Tristan could win his fourth WBL title, which he is gunning for, not very many have done that, so that would be a great accomplishment,” Murphy said.
At 138, two early favorites are Celina’s Jaden King and Lima Shawnee’s Mason Adlesh. St. Marys’ Josh Schafer, Wapak’s Corbin Mitchell and Defiance’s Alex Francis will battle for the third and fourth spots.
At 145, Van Wert’s Gabe Steyer is the heavy favorite, followed by Lima Shawnee’s Trenton Fairburn. Battling for the third and fourth spots are St. Marys’ Keegan Sharpe, Defiance’s Nikita Hoeffling and Celina’s Jacob Por.
The 152 pound weigh class is wide open. Wapakoneta’s Jacob Schlesselman, along with St. Marys’ Kayden Sharpe are the favorites. Celina’s Ethan Ly and Defiance’s Dom Tracy should also fit into the mix.
In the 160 pound class, St. Marys’ Tommy Mabry is the heavy favorite. Celina’s Aric Gallimore and Kenton’s Carter Bays, along with Van Wert’s Mason Bigham should also fit into the mix. If Defiance’s Spencer Thompson could win a match, that would help.
At 170, it’s another wide open weight class. Kenton’s Mason Rhodes is a slight favorite. If St. Marys’ Mason Saeler is eligible to wrestle, he should fit into the mix. Elida’s Diade Miller, Defiance’s Alex Hoeffel and Celina’s Tyler Carlin could be right there, too.
At 182, in another wide open class, Lima Bath’s Zach Simpson is the favorite, followed closely by Kenton’s Ethan Manns, St. Marys’ Stashu Patterson and Celina’s Alex Stachler. Defiance’s Caleb Loehr can compete for fourth, is he is over a skin issue problem.
At 195, there are five strong wrestlers, in St. Marys’ Carter Sharpe, Celina’s Corey Fortkamp, Lima Shawnee’s Joey Hale, Van Wert’s Spencer Blue and Wapak’s Trevor Houts.
At 220, Kenton’s Noah Eikenbery and Wapak’s Evan Kaeck are the favorites. Celina’s Joey Pasada, St. Marys’ Brice Saeler, Lima Shawnee’s Torrez Russell and Van Wert’s Cody Gamble will all fit into the mix. The hope is that Defiance’s Christopher Brickel could win a match.
At 285, Kenton’s Eikenbery could bump up here, instead, where he would be stamped as the favorite. Others who could easily win or place in the top four are St. Marys’ Braeden Saeler, Elida’s Broch Lyons, Lima Bath’s Carter Butler and Van Wert’s Eli Kline. If Defiance’s Ashton Rose could win a match, that would greatly help the Bulldogs’ cause.
WBL tournament action begins at Lima Bath on Saturday at 10 a.m.