Beavercreek hosts Centerville for the coveted Champions’ Cup tonight. The Cup, which started in 2015, celebrates the wrestling tradition both programs built. Since the start of the Western Ohio League in 1965 and the move to the Greater Western Ohio Conference in 2001, Centerville (13) and Beavercreek (30) have combined for 43 league championships.
The match starts at 5 p.m. with middle school, followed by junior varsity at 6:15 and varsity at 7:30. COVID protocols will be in place with wrestlers socially distanced and mats disinfected after each session.
“We’re both pretty good teams so it’ll be a good one,” Hunter Martin said. “We definitely have mutual respect with Centerville. We have a fun rivalry going with them.”
Beavercreek returns a pair of state qualifiers from last season. Sophomore Logan Besecker qualified in the 120-pound weight class and sophomore Tyler Hicks qualified at 195.
“Starting out with Centerville is going to be tough. It’s probably going to be the best challenge we’ll have this year,” Besecker said. “You definitely want to win something like that. It’s cool. I’ve wrestled a lot of them and I’ve been pretty good friends with a lot of them for a while. … There’s definitely respect, for sure. We know how good each other are and it’s going to be a battle. We’re all excited to get on the mat again.”
Centerville’s lineup is highlighted by returning state qualifiers in senior Jonathan Bruder (220) and juniors Simon Taylor (113), Damion Ryan (120) and Luke Acuna (126). The Elks returned to the mat sooner than the Beavers this season. Some Elks have as many as 20 matches in already.
As for Beavercreek, the extra month of practice has enabled coach Gary Wise to work more on fundamentals and technique than ever before. Younger wrestlers who would have been spectators at invitationals have seen valuable mat time in practice. Beavercreek decided to start the season late and limit their exposure to outside programs, hopefully giving the Beavers a better chance to avoid COVID issues.
They felt starting late and not seeing teams in December gave them the best chance to make it through the season. Getting past the holidays was a bonus. They’ve been practicing in pods and have split the team in two groups practicing in separate rooms.
“It’s making everyone in the room take practice more seriously. That’s the only thing we’re able to do,” Hicks said. “(Coach Wise tells us) just keep coming after it every day. We’ve been busting our butts every day. Keep working hard and the results will be there.
“(Tuesday) is going to feel great. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Once that whistle blows it’s business and I’m ready for it.”
That’s also how Riley Martin is approaching his senior season. Both he and Hunter started wrestling in Beavercreek’s youth program, which is now guided by their dad, Jarrod. Both have also heard their dad’s stories about wrestling internationally.
“It’s definitely big shoes to fill,” Riley Martin said of the family wrestling tradition. “Wrestling for the same team under the same coach? There are some pretty big expectations. You don’t feel pressure to reach those expectations but we definitely want do, just to prove something to ourselves and others that we’re the next generation.
“It’s my last year wrestling in high school. I really have to make the most of this year. Keep going and wrestling hard.”
The Martins aren’t the lone father/son connection Wise has on his team this season. Sophomore Hayden Randolph is on the team and his father, Shawn, placed sixth at state in 1995.
Both Riley and Hunter have sought out their father’s wrestling knowledge. There was one question both wrestlers really wanted to pin down: What should I know wrestling for coach Wise? The answer continues to be the same no matter the generation.
“Make sure you show up to practice every day. Don’t make excuses. Work as hard as you can,” Riley said of his dad’s answer.
“He told me coach Wise won’t take any excuses or anything like that. He always expects hard work,” Hunter said.
That hard work often ends up on display on one of those Ohio-shaped signs on display for future Beavers to see.
“Hopefully,” Riley said, “I can get on there, too.”