BETHEL – Tom Donahue’s 2015-16 Bethel-Tate High School wrestling team lost the league wrestler of the year (Aric Peters) due to graduation, but return several experienced performers for 2015-16. In his ninth year with the Tigers, his Southern Buckeye Conference dual meet record is 30-11.
“We ended up winning nine of our last 10 dual meets last year and finished as one of the top 16 Division III teams in Ohio,” Donahue said. “We had a regional runner-up finish to the state champs, Dayton Christian, after defeating rival Blanchester in the regional semifinals.”
Leading the way is Southern Buckeye Conference-National Division first team selection Jeffrey Botts, who made it to the state tournament last March at 182 pounds. Also making SBAAC-National first team at 160 was B.J. Ratcliff.
Ratcliff and Botts return as seniors leading a team that finished second by 14 points to Blanchester for the league title.
“Jeffrey is a three-time SBAAC champ looking to be only the 12th ever four-time league champ and third Bethel-Tate wrestler to be four-time champ following Scott Parsley (1987-1990) and Joey Calhoun (1988-1991),” Donahue said. “He’s only six wins from the 100 career win mark and is currently ranked No. 6 in the state at 182 pounds in Division III.”
Ratcliff was also SBAAC champ at 160 pounds and was a sectional runner-up. He just missed the state tournament with a sixth place district finish. He is currently ranked No. 13 at 170 pounds this season.
Others to watch are senior Justin Hixson, a sectional champ at 132; junior Kermit Beckworth, sectional champ at 285; junior Wyatt O’Neil, 26-11 at 170 last year; sophomore Matt Hall, third at sectionals; and freshman Trey Sander, 33-7 as an eighth-grader and a junior high state qualifier.
The Tigers have 12 returning varsity lettermen with 10 returning starters. Other returners that should factor in into team scoring are juniors Kobe Bryant, Jordan Newberry and Jacob Petri and sophomores Owen Holtke, Brad Young and Bradley Lewis. Donahue also expects seniors Eric Perry and Jake Simes, junior Dylan Saylor and freshman Robby Perkins to have an impact.
Newcomers sporting the scarlet and grey are freshmen Mike Whittington, Keith Willoughy, Evan Copestick and Dylan Keller, plus sophomore Jonah Blankenship.
“As always, we’re looking to continually improve every time we stop on the mat in hopes of competing for league and sectional titles,” Donahue said. “We’re also looking to improve upon our regional runner-up placement and are looking for three to four guys to still be wrestling in March fighting to get on that podium in Columbus.”
The Tigers kick off 2016 in the Madeira Invitational Jan. 8.
The McNicholas Rockets shouldn’t be counted out, either.
Jackson Gear and Thomas Moore, son of coach Craig Moore, wrestled for select teams in middle school which helped them make the jump to the high school ranks.
Prior to the postseason, Gear had one of the better records on the team at 25-8 with 12 pins through Feb. 18 of last year. He was top-10 in the city in wins at 145 pounds.
Moore, through Feb. 18, was 21-12.
Rielly Dowell-Howko, the team’s only returning King of the Hill winner from last year, is back for his junior season.
“Anderson has dominated this event for a number of years, but coach Moore has started to develop a program over there at McNick,” Turpin coach Kyle Georg said after last year’s King of the Hill. “It’s becoming more competitive.”
Wrestlers to watch
Jeffrey Botts, Bethel-Tate – A state qualifier last season at 182 pounds and first team SBAAC-National as a junior. Botts is trying to be a four-time SBAAC champion.
B.J. Ratcliff, Bethel-Tate – First team selection at 160 pounds SBAAC-National and sectional runner-up.