By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
CASSTOWN — With a state-wide tournament coming up, most coaches would be focused on their respective teams and athletes.
But some events are just bigger and demand a wider perspective.
That will be the case Saturday and Sunday when the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Associations hosts Ohio’s first ever girls state tournament at Hilliard-Davidson High School, a season-ending historic event to put an exclamation mark on a year full of firsts for the sport of girls wrestling in the state.
And though his team has played a major role in bringing that history about, Miami East girls wrestling coach George Shore knows exactly what this means for girls across Ohio that want to wrestle.
“The one thing I’m most excited about is the impact that this weekend is going to have,” Shore said. “I’m most excited for the girls to get this experience, and I’m especially excited for my girls — not just the girls on my team, but also girls across Ohio that I’ve coached for years, those national team girls. This is all on their backs. They’ve done the work, wrestling those boys, getting the name out and letting people know that, yes, girls wrestle.”
And he and his family know first-hand the struggles it’s been to get to this point.
“I’ve seen girls wrestling for the last 13 years, and we’ve put in a lot of effort to make small impacts, just to push it an inch further, an inch further,” Shore said. “And a weekend like this weekend? It throws us a football field down the road, it pushes us that far.
“We’ve got guys that are involved in Ohio high school wrestling that are all in, they’re making these adjustments and they want girls wrestling. When you have the guys in charge saying we want this to happen, those are things we’ve been begging for for 13 years.”
Miami East’s team began the season making history — in December, the Vikings hosted Olentangy Orange in Ohio’s first ever all-girls dual, only the third match of its kind nation-wide at the time. The Vikings lost that dual 48-36, but they bounced back a few weeks later by winning the Pioneer Classic Memorial Tournament, hosted by Olentangy Orange. After another tournament victory at Ridgedale, though, the Vikings placed third at Bellefontaine’s Chieftain Invitational, leaving them a few weeks to prepare for this weekend’s tournament.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Shore said. “We lost the opening dual — which, that night was a big night for girls wrestling — then we go back, regroup and win Olentangy’s tournament. A few weeks later, we win at Ridgedale by more than 100 points. Then we take a three-week break, go into Bellefontaine, a lot of the other girls had regrouped and we kind of came in soft. We ended up taking third, Olentangy won and Marysville snuck in there.
“All of these new teams are experiencing this roller-coaster right along with us. Coming into this weekend, Marysville’s made a late spring and is a sleeper, and then you’ve got the two dominant teams in us and Olentangy. But everybody’s going to have to wrestle this weekend. I feel like we’re regrouped and ready, and I feel like we’re the team to beat going into this weekend.”
The Vikings not only have a full roster, with one girl in all 14 weight classes, they have two girls in four of the weight classes. And leading the way will be junior Olivia Shore at 111 — who made history last year as a sophomore, becoming only the second girl ever to qualify for the OHSAA state boys tournament, as well as the first to ever win a first-round championship bracket match.
Shore’s bracket has 11 wrestlers in it, including her, while the one below and one above have a host of competitors, including 27 of them at 116.
“At one time, Olivia was going to go to 106, and 106 was going to be a ghost town. So at least we had some takers at 111,” Shore, Olivia’s father, said with a laugh. “Once everyone knew she was going to 111, we had a bunch dive to 106 and a bunch jump to 116. But we kind of expected that.”
And for some of the Vikings, as well as the other competitors from around the state, this weekend will be their only chance to wrestle in a tournament such as this.
“There’s so many girls that this will be their one and only state championships because they’re seniors,” Shore said. “They wrestled one year of their life and are going to top it off with this state championships.”
And with the weekend being so historic, some of the other people that have paved the way will be there to celebrate, as well, reportedly including Paige Nemec, who was the first girl to qualify for Ohio’s boys state tournament in Division II for Mantua Crestwood back in the 2009-10 season.
“I’ve heard that Paige Nemec, who is now Doctor Nemec, is coming back to make a guest appearance,” Shore said. “There’s some really cool stuff happening. Some of the other world team girls may be there, as well as Tiffin University’s women’s wrestling coach, the first Ohio college to form a women’s wrestling team. Several colleges will be there to recruit, as well. These girls will have a great opportunity, and it’s going to be an event.”
All told, 246 girls will compete across the 14 weight classes, 101 to 235, over the course of the two-day tournament. Wrestling will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hilliard-Davidson High School and will go to the championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals, with wrestling resuming at 10 a.m. Sunday. The championship finals will begin one hour after the consolation semifinals, with spots on the podium up for grabs for the top six wrestlers in each weight.
Two more days full of first to cap off the biggest year yet for girls wrestling in Ohio.
“I’m excited for them, I’m super excited for my seniors, and at the end of the day, it’s my daughter,” Shore said. “I’m excited that she has a team, that we have these state championships, that she has this opportunity, and I know she’s looking forward to having a good tournament.”
Contact Josh Brown at jb[email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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