By Tony Maluso
COLUMBUS - A lot of schools sent kids to the state wrestling tournament. In Division III alone, 121 schools were represented.
However, not all them were able to get a kid to place in the top eight, let alone two.
It takes a special program and a special group of athletes to have two wrestlers climb on to the podium, being recognized as the one of the eight best wrestlers in the state in their weight class.
Seneca East is one of those programs.
The Tigers closed out the tournament placing 37th as a team powered by two seniors.
Nick Hughes took fifth place in the 160-pound weight class, while Damien Showman took sixth at 120-pounds.
"It's a great program," Showman said. "We may be small in numbers, but have some pretty good wrestlers."
Tiger coach Matt Depinet said the performance both put on this weekend could mean more than they realize for the future of Seneca East wrestling.
"I think it's going to help us a lot. I don't know if they realize how much this is going to help us in the future," he said. "Maybe helping getting kids out and getting it more out in our school. Kind of open people's eyes up a little bit."
Hughes fell 18-3 to Beachwood's David Shapiro, the same wrestler who topped him in the first round. However, Shapiro remained the only wrestler who beat Hughes over the weekend, as the Seneca East grappler responded with a 12-1 major decision over Codie Millhone of Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley to end his trip to state with a fifth-place finish.
"I really want to come back and win that last match," he said. "To know that I'm one of the five best in the state, in my weight class, it's a great feeling."
Showman dropped his first match Saturday to Cody Steiner of Waynesville, 17-6, and then was pinned by Andrew Hoskins of Jamestown Greenview, the same wrestler who knocked him out of the championship bracket.
Showman, though, went 3-3 on the weekend for a sixth-place finish, two spots higher than his finish at state a year ago. Back-to-back state finishes earn him a special place in Seneca East history.
"Damien, he's only the second kid in our school's history to be a two-time placer," Depinet said. "I think we just got into some kids that our kids didn't match up with pretty well. Just fell the way it fell. He worked hard. It's disappointing, but it's kind of an up-and-down thing. He lost, but he's still a placer and that's a hard thing to do.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "I'm a little disappointed with that last one, but coming down here and doing that two times in a row is pretty big. So I guess I'll have that to enjoy for the rest of my life."
Hughes and Showman may have paved the way for a new generation of Tiger wrestlers to come through. Depinet said he planned on making tapes to show kids in the lower levels what is possible.
"It's going to be a big help," Depinet said. "Younger kids can see this and say 'look at these kids, look at what they did.' I don't think they realize how much of an impact it's going to make."
Hughes said those that come up and attempt to follow in their footsteps have to follow the same work ethic to get the same results.
"If you work hard, anything's possible," he said. "I think we showed what can be done by working hard and dedicating yourself."