Having experienced the atmosphere of historic St. John Arena and the excitement of the Division III state team dual championships before, the Versailles Tigers shouldn’t be in awe of their surroundings Sunday.
With that out of the way, the Tigers can focus on the shock.
Top-seeded and defending state champion Genoa also returns to the D-III championships . But the No. 3 Tigers are ready for a rematch. Genoa beat Versailles 50-9 in last year’s semifinals. The teams also meet a couple weeks ago at the Napoleon Duals with Genoa winning 43-29.
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Should both win their first two matches they’d meet in the finals Sunday.
“We’re probably as healthy as we have been all year,” Versailles coach AJ Bey said. “I think if we go down, put our 14 kids out there and wrestle like we have we do have a shot.”
Versailles wrestles No. 6 Mantua Crestwood in the quarterfinals at 1:15 p.m. The winner advances to face No. 2 Milan Edison or No. 7 Bidwell River Valley in the semifinals.
“Anytime you’re kind of away from the No. 1 team it gives you a good shot at getting to the finals,” Bey said. “I don’t know much about Crestview. I know they’ve got a few decent lightweight kids but other than that I don’t know much about them.”
Versailles enters the state tournament with five wrestlers ranked in the state: Sophomore Kobe Epperly (No. 14 at 113), senior Jacob Poling (No. 9 at 126), junior Nick Monnier (No. 25 at 138), senior Tyler Gigandet (No. 16 at 170) and junior Isaac Grilliot (No. 10 at 195).
Crestwood’s ranked wrestlers come at 106 (No. 3), 113 (No. 7), 132 (No. 29) and 138 No. 23).
This is Versailles’ fourth state appearance with trips in 2018, 2016 and 2013. The Tigers reached the semifinals in both 2013 and 2018.
Bey is banking on strong senior leadership getting them there again, and hopefully beyond.
Along with Poling and Gigandet, 152-pounder Dalton Didier and 182-pounder Derek Cavin have also performed well for the Tigers. Having his senior hammers in the heart of the Tigers’ lineup has bolstered the team.
“Our seniors are wrestling really well right now. They pulled through for us at the regionals so hopefully that holds true Sunday,” Bey said. “I think it helps out in the middle if another team starts getting momentum, those guys can come in and almost be a stopper and get momentum going our way.”
The dual state championships are held at the cozy St. John Arena, built in 1956. The individual state championships in March are held at the spacious Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena, built in 1998. They offer a different feel but the same opportunity when it comes to facing the state’s best competition.
“Even the kids that are borderline at district and might not make state, I think this really helps them to see this type of competition and see what they need to do for next year,” Bey said. “A lot of the kids, if they weren’t in high school, they were in junior high and they came down and watched. That helps out a little bit. It takes a little bit of the awe out of it.”