Middletown seniors lead youthful wrestling program

In his first season as head coach, Johnny Davis Jr.’s Middletown High School wrestling team has gone from 17 wrestlers to 12 thanks in part to injuries, academics and attitudes.

For the small brotherhood of Middies that remain, the focus is on gaining experience and skill instead of worrying about wins and losses.

“They’re a bunch of good kids and they’re working hard. It’s a long process,” Davis said. “They’re trying and working hard. We need to change the culture.”

The Middies have a trio of seniors guiding the team in that direction. Judah Thomas is 26-1 with 17 pins at the 152-pound weight class. Christian Shabazz, who missed time early this season, is 10-7 with eight pins at 132. Chris Jones has shown potential while going 12-12 with 10 pins at 145.

»RELATED: Tuesday’s high school roundup

Thomas was ranked No. 3 in the Southwest District and No. 12 in the state by wrestling guru Billy Schaefer of borofanohio.net.

“He’s probably got the best work ethic of any kid I’ve coached,” Davis said. “He’s always asking questions. He’s put in the time in the weight room and looks the part.”

Thomas and Shabazz were two of four Middies to qualify for the Division I district tournament last season. Davis likes the Middies’ chances of getting that many and perhaps more to district this season. One advantage is Middletown hosts a sectional tournament so the surroundings will certainly be familiar.

“I feel like I’ve got five that are ready,” Davis said. “My experienced guys are doing very well in tournaments. I’ve also got five that have been wrestling about one season or so. They’re still learning how to cut weight against kids who have been wrestling forever. Their opponents are bigger, stronger and more experienced. I’ve explained to them don’t worry about wins or losses this year. We’re just trying to fill as many weight classes as we can, fill as much mat time as we can and learn.”

Davis said Middletown’s eighth-grade class is large so the program’s future looks strong. He’s also hoping to get a job at Middletown High School teaching social studies heading into the fall, enabling him to recruit the hallways.

• Franklin had a trio of champions at the Eaton Invitational last Saturday. Tyler Woods won at 126, Gage Johnson at 182 and Jared Kremer at 195.

• Ross’ Alex Coleman, the D-II defending state champ, added an Eaton Invitational title to his trophy case with the victory at 285. Coleman improved to 27-1 with pins in 18, 51 and 13 seconds. He pinned Arcanum’s Jayden Heltsley in 1:55 in the championship.

•Madison’s Devin Oligee and Quincy Brown earned titles at the Miami Trace McDonald’s Invitational. Oligee won the 170-pound class and Brown at 195.

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