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Shroyer gets second in 189-pound division

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By Seth Whitehead

In many ways, Saturday's 189-pound championship match at the Class A Individual State Tournament was vintage Matt Shroyer.

The Vandalia senior showed relentless will in battling Durand's Mitch Alberstett tooth-and-nail for all the marbles.

He scratched. He clawed. He left everything on the mat.

Such has been the case countless times before during a stellar senior, but with one big difference this time around: Shroyer did not emerge victorious.

After completing a comeback from an early 4-0 deficit with a takedown that forced overtime just a second before the final buzzer sounded, Shroyer simply ran out of gas in the extra session, as a Alberstett secured the first state title in his school's history with a takedown that clinched a 9-7 win.

It was just the second loss for Shroyer (41-2) this season, and the reason for the setback was clear in VCHS coach Jason Clay's eyes.

"He was spent," Clay said. "You could see he was exhausted. He got into overtime, and he just didn't have anything left in the tank. He wrestled so hard to get there."

Shroyer's exhaustion went beyond the physical nature.

Battling an understandable case of the nerves, he simply was not himself early on.

"It was a combination of all of it," said Shroyer, referring to wrestling in at the Assembly Hall, the level of competition and the pageantry of the Grand March that precedes the championship matches.

"This place itself is pretty intimidating," Shroyer said. "Then you're waiting around all day to wrestle. You get mentally exhausted from just trying to get prepared."

Alberstett took full advantage, coming within a whisker of pinning Shroyer in the opening quarter. Alberstett came away with four back points for a commanding 4-0 lead.

He looked poised to cruise to victory moments later, taking a 6-3 lead into the final minute.

But Shroyer scored a sudden one-armed takedown to cut Alberstett's lead to 6-5. Then, following an Alberstett escape, he came up with a clutch ankle pick, tying the match 7-7 with a takedown just before time expired.

"We go through situations like that all the time in practice, you know, 30 seconds left, down by two situations," Shroyer said. "And I knew I could get in on him. I'd been getting in on him the whole time."

Shroyer's relentlessness did not surprise his coach.

"That's just Matt," Clay said. "That's the way he's always been. He's just a fighter."

Alberstett was unfazed by Shroyer's comeback, however, as he came up with a match-clinching takedown with 24 seconds remaining in O.T.

Though Alberstett came out on top, Shroyer at least managed to ratchet up Alberstett's degree of difficulty. Alberstett advanced to the finals with a pair of pins - including a pin of Agenta-Orena's Bryce Bowman just 21 seconds into their semifinal match.

Despite the disappointment of the defeat, Shroyer conceded that he "never expected to really be here" when he took up wrestling back in the second grade.

Though he achieved success at the junior level - qualifying for state his fifth-grade year - his high school career got off to a rocky start, as he suffered a broken leg his freshman season.

After finishing around .500 his sophomore year, Shroyer made huge strides as a junior, winning well over 30 matches and qualifying for state.

But he experienced a true breakthrough his senior year, entrenching his name atop the state's 189-pound rankings on www.matmen.com before coming within a whisker of claiming a state title.

Shroyer credits his senior season success to "confidence, really," and "working for football and getting stronger."

Semifinal

Two first-quarter takedowns set the tone, as Shroyer cruised into the title match with an 11-3 major decision over Dwight's Chris Stewart.

Shroyer led 4-1 after one quarter, as Stewart managed a point on an escape. Shroyer extended his lead at the end of the second period with a near fall, however, and Stewart never seriously threatened the Vandal senior.

Quarterfinal

Shroyer opened up state competition with a dominating pin 2 minutes and 35 seconds into his quarterfinal match against Eureka's Zach Wakid.

Shroyer enjoyed a 10-4 lead after one quarter against the overmatched Wakid, setting the tone with a takedown just 15 seconds into the match.