LIMA — Getting a wrestling team ready for the postseason tournament is like tuning up a car.
Coaches continually try to find ways to get their athletes primed and ready to perform at the highest level.
Just a few weeks away from the postseason tournament, longtime Allen East head coach Mike Abbey has his squad clicking on all cylinders.
At this weekend’s Lima Central Catholic Thunderbird Invitational, Abbey’s Mustangs were shifting to overdrive as they finished a close second to Covington 171-177, in the overall team standings. There were 29 teams at the invitational.
Eastwood finished third (165.5), while Wayne Trace (157.5) and Blanchester (144) rounded out the top five squads. Coldwater (8th, 98), Columbus Grove (9th, 89) and Bluffton (10th, 79) were the other local teams that finished in the top 10.
“We had one champ today, Chase Miller. He wrestled at 160,” Abbey said. “Chase had a great tournament. He knocked off one of the better guys in the state, from Wayne Trace (Eli Moore). Chase wrestled really well. He had a major decision in the finals and really looked solid.”
Moore, who came into Saturday’s finals with a 31-0 record, lost to Miller in the 160-pound championship match, 15-3.
“I brought nine guys, and I had nine guys in the top eight (places in their respective weight classes). I can’t complain about that,” Abbey said.
Miller (33-3), a junior, said he’s starting to peak at the right time of the season. He has won the Northwest Conference title the past two seasons. Last season, he was the (Division III) sectional champion at 152.
“I finally started to find my groove this tournament,” Miller said. “We (Allen East team) are all starting to get into a groove. The postseason is almost upon us. So, we’re ready to go.”
Abbey and his team experienced a scary moment Saturday when three-time state qualifier Drake Carmean suffered an injury in his semifinal bout, and was unable to finish the tournament. This weekend, Carmean recorded his 150th career win.
“One more victory in the finals there, could have turned things around,” Abbey said. “My 132-pounder, Drake Carmean, dislocated his elbow. But thankfully, nothing is broken. So, you put his extra points in there, with him wrestling back, and we’re right there (for the team title).”
For Lima Central Catholic junior Gavin Caprella, it was his second Thunderbird title Saturday. Last season, Caprella won the title in the 106-pound weight class. On Saturday, Caprella notched the title at 113.
Caprella (16-1) decisioned Eastwood’s Bryce Maynard in the finals, 8-2.
“I didn’t get to my attacks early,” Caprella said about his finals match. “Then I started to get to my attacks a little bit more and was able to get my shots.”
Last season, Caprella qualified for the state tournament, but was unable to compete as the season was abruptly halted, right before the state tournament, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, the junior Caprella is focused on the ultimate prize.
“To get to the top of the podium is the goal. … It has always been the goal,” Caprella said.
Chase Martin, a senior at Delphos St. John’s, won the title Saturday at 170, giving him 134 career wins, seven short of the school record.
In Saturday’s finals match, Martin decisioned Eastwood’s Jimmy Recknagel, 8-4.
Martin (35-1), who qualified for last year’s state tournament, has a couple personal goals this season. Making it back to state is not the only thing on his mind. Martin also is chasing the school record for career wins.
“That’s one of my goals (to get to state),” Martin said. “I also want to get the school record for wins. … That’s the other goal I’m shooting for. Hopefully, I can get it by sectionals.
“Not only that (having last year’s state tourney cancelled), but I was stuck on 99 wins. So, I was hoping to get it down in Columbus (at the state tourney).”
Bluffton sophomore Thayne Kleman made very quick work of his opponent in his finals match at 106 on Saturday.
Kleman (31-3) pinned Covington’s Michael Hagan just 33 seconds into the match.
Kleman said there are times he just wants to get the match completed as quick as possible.
“It just depends,” Kleman said. “Sometimes, we want to get some mat time. But with a finals match, I’m not going to play around too much.”
Others winning titles Saturday included Ashland Crestview’s Hayden Kuhn (126), Coldwater’s Caleb Stammen (195), Columbus Grove’s Jeff Meyer (285), Covington’s Cael Vanderhorst (138), Eastwood’s Brandon Hahn (120), Miami East’s David Davis (145) and Dustin Winner (220), Triad’s Coleman Hauck (152) and Isiah Leasure (182).
Wayne Trace’s Hunter Long (29-2), who won the title at 132, was picked by the coaches as the outstanding wrestler of the invitational.