VERSAILLES – For the second straight year, the Versailles wrestling team is heading to the State Team Dual tournament in Columbus.
The Tigers earned the trip for the fourth time in seven years of the tournament’s existence after winning its Division III Region 24 tournament last week.
“Going into the regional last week I said any of the top five teams could win it on a good day and I think that was proven with Mechanicsburg as the 7th seed facing us in the finals,”: Versailles coach A.J. Bey said. “They have a really good, young team.
“(Getting to the state team tournament) is a goal of ours every year,” he continued. “We challenged the new seniors coming in this year to one up the seniors that left us last year, so we are hoping that we can do that. It is an honor to get there and we are hoping that we can do some good things this year.”
Last year, Versailles finished in the top 4 teams after losing in the semifinals to eventual state champion Genoa Area. Among the seniors Bey talked about leading this team back to the state team tournament are Jake Poling and Derek Cavin, both team captains.
“These two guys have been great senior leaders this year,” Bey said. “A couple weeks ago I thought we were lacking a little bit so I challenged them and they have really stepped up since then. Most of our seniors have been starters for four years so they know what is going on and they know what to expect every day.”
Poling is among the team leaders this season with 27 wins and he is the team leader in pins with 22.
“It means a lot to be going back to state,” Poling said. “This will be my third time going. It’s a pretty awesome place. Big crowd and an old stadium. It’s not hard to focus for me. I just have to go up there knowing I have to get pins for my team every match.”
Cavin, who has had a bit more of an up-and-down season, said the same thing.
“This is my third time going to the state team duals also and it means everything to me,” Cavin said. “It’s great up there. There are so many people watching. Coming from a small town it is completely different. During warm-ups it is kind of rowdy because there are so many people there, but once it starts I’m pretty good at staying focused on what I have to do.
“Going as a team I think is so much better because you have everyone there with you,” he continued. “Instead of just two guys at individuals, you have 20 and you are all having the same experience at the same time. It has been a back-and-forth year for me, but I just have to not think about it, get back in here and keep working and move on. I have to get those extra points like instead of 4 I need to get a tech fall or pin for 5 or 6 points because that can win or lose a match.”
The team will have a lot their collective minds in trying to win a state championships, but also will be thinking about their fallen teammate, Trevor Huber, who died recently after an ATV accident.
“Trevor will be on my mind a lot,” Poling said. “I wish he was here and I wish he could be a part of this, but we are doing this for him. I just have to keep working hard for my team for us to have a chance at winning.”
Versailles is the No. 3 seed and will face Mantua Crestwood in its first match at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday at St. John Arena in Columbus. A win would move the Tigers to the semifinal round at 3:30 p.m. where they would face the Milan Edison-Bidwell River Valley winner. The finals will start at 7:30 p.m.
“This is our fourth year going to the team state tournament and second in a row,” Bey said. “When they first started this seven years go we really took the initiative to build a team around this because I think we knew we could possibly be successful. The key is to get down there and get that first one under you belt and then see what happens.”
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.