BATH TOWNSHIP — It has been a long wait for the St. Marys wrestling program.
The last time St. Marys had won a Western Buckeye League team championship was the 1976-77 campaign. That season, the Roughriders shared the title with Defiance.
Now, 43 years later, there’s no sharing this time for the Roughriders.
At Saturday’s Western Buckeye League tournament at Bath, three teams came in with 8-1 regular-season dual records. Along with St. Marys, Celina and Wapakoneta also had one loss during the regular season.
With the criteria used for crowning the overall WBL champion – half based on dual record, half on tournament performance – meant the winner of Saturday’s tournament would claim the WBL title outright.
On Saturday, St. Marys racked up early points, put seven wrestlers into the finals and went on to notch the tournament crown. The Roughriders defeated second-place Celina, 151-145.5. Wapakoneta finished third in the tournament with 118 points. Defiance (91) and Shawnee (81.5) rounded out the top five squads. There were 10 teams in the tournament.
Longtime St. Marys coach Larry Gruber, who also was named the coach of the year in the WBL, said he did not feel safe with his team’s lead, heading into the finals.
“We knew that even if we had first place (after semifinals), that third places would pick up a lot of points,” Gruber said. “So, we were hoping they (Celina) would not have enough people pulling out third places, and then come back to catch us. That was a fear we had; and it almost happened.”
This year’s St. Marys’ squad is comprised mostly of underclassmen.
“We’re starting seven freshmen,” Gruber said. “We have one senior and one junior. The rest are freshmen and sophomores. So, our goal was to get better each week throughout the season.”
Winning individual titles Saturday for St. Marys were Tyler Hisey (113), Trevor Hisey (120), Tommy Mabry (160) and Mason Saeler (170). This was both Trevor Hisey’s and Mabry’s second WBL titles.
For the Hiseys – who are twins – winning titles Saturday was extra special.
Last year as a freshman, Tyler Hisey placed second in the WBL tournament. On Saturday, he pinned Wapakoneta’s Bryce Knapke in just 28 seconds in his title match at 113.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Tyler Hisey said about his team winning the title. “We’ve been working hard for a long time. At the start of the year, it wasn’t really going that good. But everybody kept progressing and got a lot better as the season went on.”
Tyler’s brother, Trevor, has been coming back from an injury, which kept him out of the lineup for nearly two months.
“We’ve been working a lot after practice, trying to get his endurance back up,” Tyler Hisey said in reference to his brother.
In the championship match at 120, Trevor Hisey posted a 12-5 decision over Wapakoneta’s Keaton Elling.
Trevor Hisey’s first week back in the lineup was last week, when St. Marys knocked off Celina in a dual. To make it even more challenging, his normal weight class is 113. So, Saturday he bumped up a weight class.
“I just had to focus on my technique. My technique is good, and I knew he (Elling) was strong,” Trevor Hisey said.
Last year, Trevor Hisey won the WBL title in the 113-pound weight class.
Van Wert senior Gabe Steyer notched his fourth career WBL title Saturday. In fact, Steyer has never lost a WBL match throughout his four years.
On Saturday, Steyer made quick work of Shawnee’s Trent Fairburn in the title match at 145, as he pinned him midway through the first period.
Steyer (37-2) also notched his 150th career win Saturday in his semifinal match.
Steyer is a two-time state qualifier. This season, Steyer wants to take it to the next level.
“I want to place top four (at the state tournament),” Steyer said. “I felt like I should have placed (at state) the last two years. I didn’t perform well on the big stage. So, I’m used to it now. Hopefully, I get down there and show some people that I am the real deal, and that I mean business.”
Also notching his fourth career WBL title Saturday was Defiance’s Tristan Villarreal in the 132-pound weight class. Villarreal recorded a 14-2 major decision over St. Marys’ Garrett Donovan in the title match.
Elida sophomore Conner Douglass notched his second league title Saturday. Douglass recorded a 16-0 tech fall over Celina’s Jaden King in the title match at 138.
“It’s pretty nice,” Douglass said in reference to winning his second title. “My ultimate goal by my senior year is to be a state champ, and I want to include that four-time WBL championship in that. … I’d be the first one from my school to do that.”
Also winning titles Saturday were Bath’s Zachary Simpson (182) and Carter Butler (285), Celina’s Landon Engle (126) and Cory Fortkamp (195), Defiance’s Dominic Tracy (152), Wapakoneta’s Colin Mellott (106) and Evan Kaeck (220).
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.