Freshman Talawanda wrestlers step up and prove strengths

The current Talawanda wrestling team is led by Coach Brian Bolton. TALAWANDA ATHLETICS/CONTRIBUTED

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The current Talawanda wrestling team is led by Coach Brian Bolton. TALAWANDA ATHLETICS/CONTRIBUTED

OXFORD — Talawanda’s wrestling team found its numbers down this season, but that opened the door for several freshmen to step in and gain valuable varsity experience for the future.

Coach Brian Bolton praised his team for their hard work during the season and their achievements despite the obstacle of low numbers. That is an issue, he said, has been faced by all sports during the pandemic but he refuses to use it as an excuse, just a fact they had to face.

“The season started in the COVID-era, like all Talawanda sports. We had a big freshman class come in, but there were no JV or freshman squads, so they went to the varsity,” Bolton said. “When you come in to the varsity as a freshman, success is limited. What stands out is a freshman, Gavin Boner, finishing with 23 wins.”

Boner wrestled in the 106-pound weight class and finished third in the February 19 Southwest Ohio Conference championship meet hosted by Talawanda.

The Brave got two league championships at that meet from senior Logan Crauder, at 165, and junior Sammy Dillon, wrestling at 144, rather than his usual 150-pound weight class. The two of them had earlier captured their weight class championships at the Madison and Dayton Christian invitationals.

Dillon, Crauder and Boner were Bolton’s top three wrestlers this season with all three placing in the top four of nearly all their tournaments for the season. All three qualified for the district meet with their sectional finishes — Dillon second, Boner third and Crauder fourth.

Strong showings for the season were also recorded by senior Tanner Bown, at 132; sophomore Isaac Jones, at 138; and freshman Jackson O’Brien.

Looking ahead to next season, the coach said he expects the team to be led by Dillon, saying the wrestler “has a lot of potential to maybe go (deep) into the postseason.”

Bolton said the team numbers were held down some due to COVID this year and he hopes the numbers will go back up next year to supplement this year’s juniors when they will be seniors. Of course, the experience for this year’s freshmen will be a plus for the squad.

“The freshman class really stepped up. They showed a lot of heart when we had few seniors back. Several seniors graduated early after the fall semester,” Bolton said.

A highlight for the season was participation in the first in-school, in-session dual meet at Middletown. It was an event during the school day to introduce students to the sport and the two schools plan to repeat the event next season at Talawanda.

“They really put the hammer down on us. It was a promotional thing. It was great. They picked up the positive vibe. Next year, they will come to us,” he said. “It was great, students got to choose math class or the gym. They had the lights and music, just like an NBA game. It was exciting for everyone.”

Bolton said he plans to promote the team in the school prior to the start of the next season, in hopes of picking up more team members to supplement the numbers, especially looking to recruit from other sports, particularly football, which has traditionally produced a lot of wrestlers in the past.

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