Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — In each of the past two seasons, Adena junior Dalton Metzger could call himself a district wrestling qualifier.
And in each of the past two seasons, that title was nowhere good enough in his mind.
With the ultimate goal of qualifying for the state wrestling tournament, Metzger knew he had work to do coming into his junior year.
So, he did what he always does: put his head down, focused on nothing else but getting better on the mats, and applied lessons learned to in-bout situations.
After capturing an individual Scioto Valley Conference title, Metzger entered this past Saturday’s Division III Sectional Tournament riding a wave of momentum.
He did nothing to stop that trend, placing third in the 152-pound weight class and extending his already-stellar season another week.
He’ll now wrestle at the Division III District Tournament in Troy, Ohio this weekend — his third straight district qualification. If he places in the top four, he’ll punch his first ticket to the OHSAA State Wrestling Tournaments, scheduled for March 7-9 at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
As mentioned above, over the past two seasons, Metzger (41-5) has had the same chance. But unfortunately, he’s fallen short of any high school wrestler’s ultimate goal. This year, however, could be different.
“I’d like to think that the third time will be a charm,” Metzger said, laughing. “But in all honesty, I’ve learned that anything can happen at the district tournament. I just have to go out and do my best, with my grandpa and [Adena] coach Dalton [Moss] by my side. Being a junior this year really helps give me a better chance.”
Metzger’s mention of his grandfather, Keith Kauffman, is a noteworthy one. At a young age, Dalton tried his hand at basketball. When he found out that wasn’t his sport, he turned to wrestling … a sport that Mr. Kauffman was well-versed in.
From there, a strong bond blossomed. Kauffman even sits in Dalton’s corner every match.
“Our relationship is one of a kind, I can tell you that right now,” Metzger said of his grandpa. “When I switched to wrestling, I’m sure it tickled him to death when he found out. He wanted to teach me everything that he knew from about seventh grade on, and I started having him sit in my corner. No one else could ever take his place. It means the world to me that he wants to sit in my corner every time I’m on the mat and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.”
Alongside Kauffman, Metzger will also have four teammates accompanying him in Troy.
Adena’s James Gregory (fourth place, 106 pounds), Garrett Simmons (second, 126), Isaac Gray (second, 145) and Connor Haines (fourth, 220) all qualified as well.
This past weekend, Metzger was each’s biggest fan. This weekend will tell the same tale.
“Seeing Isaac and Garrett both get second place this year brought me so much joy, it was unreal,” Metzger said. “Seeing James make it was something special, but Connor … seeing Connor make it was something I’ll never forget. The amount of emotion he showed and the tears that were shed was so amazing. Not one person on the team had dry eyes at that point in time. Everyone here has a real shot at making it this year. I can’t wait to see what comes.”
Earlier this season, Metzger became the program’s first-ever wrestler to reach 100 wins — an accomplishment that, he describes, as “monumental in his career.” That win came against East Knox’s Tyler DeLucia at the Heath Tournament on Feb. 2.
But he has no clue who he wrestles next. He just knows that, whoever it is, they’re standing in the way of making it to Columbus.
“I know absolutely nothing about who I wrestle first, just that he’s in my way to go to state,” Metzger said. “I never pay attention to who I’ve got to wrestle because I never want to psych myself out before the match. All I know is it’s just another person that I’ve got to try and beat.”
Whether he knows it or not, Metzger will take on Brookville sophomore Gianni Carey (12-19). And after that, if he wins, it’s either Allen East sophomore Blake Hershberger (39-12) or Carlisle sophomore Kaden Langdon (14-12).
But no matter the opponent, he just wants to walk off the mats knowing his season isn’t over.
“I’ve always imagined making it to state and how it would feel … the look on my grandpa’s face and me jumping into my coach’s arms. That feeling would be amazing and it’s so easily vivid to imagine it happening. It’s just the matter of me making it happen is what I’m concerned about.”