The Springboro wrestling team crowded onto the podium this past Saturday at Trent Arena for a trophy photo. They had just won the Greater Western Ohio Conference tournament for the second straight year and fourth time in five years.
Now the Panthers want to build a gallery of trophy photos.
State-tournament season begins with sectionals Saturday on mats across the Miami Valley. Springboro, the highest rated Division I team in the area, starts its quest for state recognition at Lakota East.
Springboro coach Fred Boulton led the Panthers to their only district title in 2020. First things first at sectionals, of course, but Boulton believes his team is deep enough to repeat the 2020 feat.
“I always expect to win, but it’s a hard tournament to win,” Boulton said.
Earlier this month the Panthers placed sixth in the Division I state duals and were the highest placing team from the Southwest District ahead of seventh-place Cincinnati LaSalle.
“Sixth place was great,” Boulton said. “The first, second and third teams are all ranked in the top 50 in the country. So when you get sixth behind those teams it’s still a great accomplishment.”
Borofanohio.net ranks wrestlers and teams every week and just released its pre-tournament almanac. It projects Springboro to score 38 points and finish 10th at the state tournament behind the power programs of Northeast Ohio and directly behind LaSalle and Cincinnati Moeller, which will be the Panthers’ primary competition at districts.
That prediction doesn’t quite reach the goal the Panthers set before the season. They want to outscore the 2011 team that placed a program-best 10th and scored 43.5 points, and Boulton says his team has enough depth to do it.
“We could have multiple placers this year, but everybody’s got to perform at their best when it matters,” he said. “If that happens, we’re going to be a tough out for anybody at the state tournament.”
The Panthers are led by seniors Connor Kleinberg at 150 pounds and Myles Johnson at 190. The almanac projects Kleinberg to place third and Johnson fifth at the state tournament. Springboro’s only state champion was Cody Shivener at 135 pounds in 2011.
“Kleinberg and Johnson both have an opportunity to be state champions this year,” Boulton said. “I feel that they’ve put the work in to make something really special happen at the state tournament. There’s really tough guys that they’re going to have to beat to do it. But they’re pretty tough guys, too.”
Division II: No area teams are projected to finish in the top 10 at state, according to the almanac, but four area wrestlers are projected to place.
Vandalia Butler 120-pounder Noah Moreland is the highest rated Dayton area wrestler as the projected runner-up. Teammate Parker Lee is rated eighth at 132 pounds. Carroll sophomore Jimmy Betcher (215) and Chaminade Julienne sophomore Jeffrey Blair (285) are rated eighth.
Graham is expected to narrowly defeat Columbus DeSales and Medina Buckeye for what would be a 22nd straight state championship and 24th overall.
Division III: Legacy Christian is projected to win its third straight state title by a comfortable margin over Milan Edison and Barnesville.
The Knights return two-time state champion Dillon Campbell, who is a junior and competes at 126 pounds. He is expected to be joined at the top of the podium by 113-pound brother Eli Campbell, also a junior. Eli was runner-up as a freshman at 106 and fourth last year at 113. Also expected to place for the Knights are freshman Nathan Attisano at 120, junior Brayden Brown at 138 and senior Ethan Cooper at 157.
Troy Christian is projected to place fourth at state and led by defending 175-pound champion Connor Havill, a senior who has committed to Ohio University. Eagles senior Kyle Schroer is projected to place at 106.
Miami East senior Cooper Shore is 39-0 and projected as the runner-up at 120.
Wrestling tournament schedule
Division I: Centerville, Lakota East, Lebanon, Middletown
Division II: Graham, Clinton-Massie, Western Brown
Division III: Covington, Versailles, Blanchester
Districts: March 3-4
Division I: Trent Arena, Kettering
Division II: Wilmington High School
Division III: Troy Hobart Arena
State: March 10-12
All divisions: Ohio State Schottenstein Center
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