At first glance, it may have seemed as if Oak Harbor's Ian Miller wasn't taking the competition at the Perrysburg Invitational Tournament very seriously.
He told the crowd before his 145-pound championship match Saturday night that his goal was to become president of the United States, and his accomplishments in other sports included beating teammate Konnor Witt in pool.
But once he took the mat, Miller proved he was very serious: He pinned Wauseon's Austin Kutzli in 3:32 to claim his third consecutive tournament title.
"We kind of had a close match in the match before mine, and the crowd seemed to be getting into it [against us]," said Miller, whose three tournament wins came in a combined time of 4:03. "I wanted to take the crowd back out of it."
Miller's title was one of seven earned by the Rockets, who dominated the tournament to win for the fourth consecutive year. Oak Harbor advanced nine wrestlers to the finals, more than double the four finalists from Wauseon, the team with the second-best total.
"Having nine guys get to go out there and experience the lamp, that's exciting," Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said of Perrysburg's single-spotlight final. "Being the only match that's going on is an experience that is huge.
"Learning to perform under pressure, and learning to perform in front of a crowd will help them down the road at sections, districts and states."
That, plus the fact that every Rocket wrestler placed in the top six, helped Oak Harbor finish with 319.5 points, with the Indians finishing second with 205.
"The thing I'm most impressed with is that we brought 14 wrestlers, and they all placed," Bergman said.
"That's rare in tournaments like this; usually you have a few guys who shine, and a few guys that you feel sorry for.
"Everybody placed in the top six, and that was exciting."
But here's the scary part for teams hoping to wrest the PIT title away from Oak Harbor: the Rockets have only four seniors in their 14-man lineup.
"The competition in our wrestling room some times is tougher than the competition on weekends," said Zach Bergman, one of the four seniors and a titlist at 135. "There are so many quality guys coming up through the ranks.
"You'd think that a senior would be a 'big dog' in the room, but not necessarily at Oak Harbor. It's a brawl every day."
The Rockets' explosion began at 119 when junior Tyler Hackworth posted a convincing 10-1 major decision over Arcadia's Anthony Elchert, a Division III state place-winner a year ago.
Hackworth's teammate Drew Stone, a two-time state runner-up, earned Oak Harbor's second-straight title with a 19-4 technical fall over Kyle Parker of Mohawk at 125. The victory was Stone's second straight PIT title.
The tightest match in the finals came at 130, when the Rockets' Alex Bergman claimed a 1-0 decision over Springfield's Garrett Manley. Bergman posted an escape in the second period, then kept Manley from escaping in the third to squeak out the victory for his second straight tournament crown.
"I came into the third period with a stalling warning against me, so I knew I couldn't just ride him, "Alex Bergman said of Manley. "I tried to turn him and I came close a couple of times, and that seemed to wear him out."
Oak Harbor's Zach Bergman earned a 7-2 decision over Gage Asher of Hamilton to win at 135, and Jake Cramer won his second straight PIT title when he edged Mitch Bloom of Mohawk 11-8 at 140.
After Miller's win, teammate Konnor Witt posted a pair of takedowns in the first 15 seconds of his 160-pound match against Ashland's J.J. Griffith. Witt rolled to a 21-5 technical fall to claim his third straight tournament title.
"I wanted to tech fall the kid, so I knew I needed to score a lot of points early," Witt said. "I wanted to win to keep our momentum going, to pump up the guys behind me."
The first Oak Harbor wrestler to lose his final match was Mike Mallernee at 171, and there was no shame in his 9-2 setback to Wauseon's Nick McCall,
"I knew [Mallernee] was a tough kid," said McCall, a Division II state place-winner last year. "Early in the match I tried to work outside shots, but in the second period shots on the inside started working."
McCall's victory in that match and his work in the tournament earned him the most valuable wrestler award.
The Rockets' Zach Sandwisch also reached the 285-pound final but suffered a 9-2 loss to Terrion Jackson of Hamilton.
Tyler Trautwein of Fremont Ross pinned Wauseon's Trent Seiler in
1:46 to win at 189, while Napoleon's Cody Bloom became a two-time PIT titlist with his title at 215 after a 5-2 win over A.J. Ralston of Hamilton.
"It was huge [for me to come back and repeat as champion]," Bloom said. "I don't know of anyone at our school who has won twice at this tournament, and this is one of the biggest tournaments we go to.
"It was a lot of fun, especially with the way they set up the final match under the lights and everything."
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