MARCH 14, 2021 - MARION
Sunday was the conclusion to a magical weekend of the Covington wrestling program as the Buccaneers finished with three state placers - the most in one year since the Buccs had three placers in 2015.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” said a very delighted Covington coach Eric Vanderhorst. “With all of the adversity we have been through with all of the injuries, the schedule changes because of Covid - all of it - to have three state placers is just awesome.”
Leading the way for Covington was senior Cael Vanderhorst (53-3) with a fourth place finish at 138 pounds. He becomes just the third Buccaneer wrestler to place at state three times, joining four-time state placer Andrew Dehart and three-time placer Ryan Ford. If it wasn’t for the cancellation of the state wrestling meet a year ago, Vanderhorst would have likely joined Dehart as a four-time state placer.
And Vanderhorst is one who overcame more than his fair share of adversity as he suffered a broken foot suffered in August - an injury that forced him to miss his senior season of football.
“Cael overcame a lot to get back here (at state),” said Eric, who is also Cael’s father. “To see him become a four-time qualifier and finish on the podium for the third time is very gratifying.”
The Buccaneer senior started off the day with an 8-1 victory over Kaiden Blair (41-11) of Fairview and advanced to the consolation final with a 10-0 major decision victory over Michael Harris ((35-5) of Smithville.
In the final bout of his high school career Vanderhorst went head-to-head against Pierce Taylor of McNicholas, the same wrestler who narrowly defeated the Buccaneer wrestler 3-0 in the district semifinal last weekend. The rematch was another tough battle, but a five-point move by Taylor late in the opening period was the deciding factor as the score ended with Vanderhorst on the short end of a 6-1 margin.
Vanderhorst was joined on the podium by senior teammate Kellan Anderson (37-8), who finished eighth at 126 pounds to finish his career as a four-time state qualifier and two-time state placer.
“Kellan had a tough road to get here (to state),” Vanderhorst said. “The district was tough and he got in as a four - and then to finish up as a four-time qualifier and two-time placer is a credit to Kellan and his work ethic.”
Anderson becomes the ninth Covington wrestler to earn at least two state medals in a career. He placed sixth as a freshman at 106 pounds and eighth this year. Like Vanderhorst, Anderson had an opportunity to earn another state medal taken away last year with the cancellation of the state tournament.
After battling through the consolation rounds on Saturday to stay in contention, Anderson dropped a close 6-2 decision to Hayden Kuhn (43-4) of Ashland Crestview. He then faced Alex Homan (39-4) of Monroeville for seventh place in what was a rematch of a 7-0 loss for Anderson in the first round of the tournament.
This time around Anderson nearly turned the tables as he was close to recording back points in the waning moments. Unfortunately the clock ran out with the Buccaneer wrestler come up short, 5-2.
Lastly, freshman Michael Hagan had his first taste of state and walked off the mat as the 15th Covington wrestler to place as he finished eighth at 106 pounds.
“I’m so proud of Michael with the way he competed,” praised Vanderhorst. “He’s just the fourth freshman ever to place for us and two of those guys are Kellan and Cael. To place at state as a freshman is extremely tough.”
After securing a spot on the podium on Saturday, Hagan was looking to climb the ladder on Sunday. Unfortunately he dropped his first match of the day to Olivia Shore (18-5) of Miami East and followed with a major decision defeat to Trevor Wilcox (43-7) of Ostego.
Hagan finishes his freshman campaign with an outstanding 43-5 record.