COLUMBUS — There is an often-held perception that wrestlers prefer the close confines of a hot and humid wrestling area in which to train for their sport.
The small rooms which are padded with mats strewn from side to side are the preferred place to increase skills and toughness.
Battling young men; sweaty and intensely-pummelling each other from feet to mat is what many consider “what wrestlers do.” The loud vocal shouts of encouragement from the coaches pierce the air. Wrestling is intense and competitive. What a wrestler may lack is willed upon them to gain it from coaches who have been there….done that.
Born from these highly-engaging two-hour flurries of motion come champion wrestlers. Great wrestlers practice great.
The reward is not always apparent in the sport of wrestling. Many lessons’ values are not known for years to come.
Invaluable lessons learned about the importance of mental toughness, dedication, and hard work do not pay immediate cash dividends. They do eventually.
One immediate reward a wrestler can attain is qualifying to the State Wrestling Individual Tournament held at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.
All of the tireless hours of working out and dieting are instantly made worth the trouble when a wrestler reaches “The State.”
A new and beautiful venue replaces those steamy practice areas. It is known as “The Schott.” A 15,000 seat arena with bright lights and 10 mats (5 green and 5 red) upon the floor sure isn’t too comparable to what the 672 qualifiers in three divisions are accustomed to participating in at practice. The spaciousness can be a bit overwhelming to some wrestlers.
The Miami Trace wrestling program sent four wrestlers to the 2014 State Tournament. Two of them have experience at this competition. The other two are “rookies.”
Trent Duffy, a senior 113 pound wrestler entered his third State Tournament in as many years. He came in to this final appearance hoping to move up on the podium from his 8th place finish a year ago and 6th place in 2012.
Bryson Laytart (a 132-pound junior) got here for a second time in three years. He was 0-2 on his first go around as a freshman in 2012.
Russell Miller (170) and Jerimiah Jones (195) both juniors, were about to be initiated on the intensity that is The State Tournament.
It is always helpful to have a person with experience to provide insight on how to handle the preparation necessary before that first match of the tournament they would compete in.
The most veteran of the quartet would take to the mat first. Duffy exited the warm-up area and proceeded through the chute that ushers the combatants into the wrestling area.
Mat No. 1 is the first mat you come upon.
That was his assigned mat to compete against Paul Petras of Parma Padua Fransciscan High School.
Petras looked as if he were the veteran grappler in the match. Duffy went just once on the offense in the first period. The bout was tied at 0-0 at the end of the first period.
Duffy took the down position to start the period. A brief lapse in basic technique cost him dearly. Duffy did not control the hands as he was coming up from the bottom. Petras got wrist control and rolled Duffy to his back for a tight waist tilt and a three-point nearfall. Those three points would be all he needed as he held on for a 4-1 victory over the favored Panther wrestler. Duffy would drop into the consolation round later in the evening trying to avoid an early elimination.
Bryson Laytart competed just after Duffy on the opposite end of the arena on mat No. 9. He kept Nate Hagan (a junior from Toledo Central Catholic) at bay for two periods countering his shots and keeping the bout very close. The score was tied at 1-1 late in the third period with both wrestlers on their feet.
One last attack by Hagan was all it took as he completed a double leg with Laytart trying desperately to fend it off. Hagan seized the opportunity and finished the move with what is known as a Double Grapevine. It was effective as he pinned Laytart at the 4:47 mark late in the third period to push the Panther wrestler into the consolation rounds.
Russell Miller entered the mats next for Miami Trace. He was also assigned to mat No. 9. His opponent, Kaz Struna (a senior from Mentor Lake Catholic) is a very tall and lanky wrestler with deceptive strength. A scoreless first period was followed by an escape by Miller to take a 1-0 lead.
Struna got a takedown but Miller tied the match at two with an escape to end the second period. Miller kept forcing the action and the referee called stalling twice on him for his lack of intensity. The second call gave Miller a point. The match was tied at two each.
Miller got in deep on takedowns several times but Struna was good at defending and nearly put Miller on his back with these counters on two occasions. Miller changed technique — he kept his arms tight on his last shot and took Struna to the mat for a last second takedown to win the bout 5-3. The win puts him in Friday morning’s quarterfinals with the undefeated Seth Miller of Tiffin Columbian.
A very tired but satisfied Miller explained his strategy in the match.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Miller said. “It messed with me a little. I knew if I did not get the takedown I was in good position to win because he had been called for stalling.”
Assistant coach, Randy Ater agreed.
“We told Russell to press the action,” Ater said. “We knew he could come back from a takedown if that happened. I think Russell can be a top five finisher here. The next match is the real test.”
Jerimiah Jones was the final wrestler for Miami Trace to compete in the opening round. The 195-pound junior faced a wrestler from the Cleveland area with a very respectable 35-5 record. Kenny Jackson (a senior from Mantua Crestwood) showed why his record is so sparkling, earning a physical 7-2 win over Jones. The Miami Trace wrestler is adept at winning physical matches but this competitor was just as strong and quick as Jones.
It is not an easy wait time for a wrestler to re-focus himself and prepare for yet another tough wrestler after a loss at State.
Duffy knows how to compete at this level. He knows how to prepare himself physically and mentally.
He would again be tentative for the first part of the match against Aaron Kelly of Rocky River. He was so tentative the referee called him for stalling in the second period.
The light bulb went on!
From that moment Trent Duffy attacked with ferocity. The match ended in regulation with the score tied. Duffy was relentless on the feet, shooting low singles and outside singles constantly. One of them worked and it earned him a takedown and the win in overtime.
“I was not mentally prepared for my first match as I should have been,” Duffy said. “I relaxed and talked with Bryson Laytart between rounds.” Another bonus for Duffy was the presense of his father, Josh Duffy, matside assisting head coach Jack Anders. “I loved (having) my dad with me. I am glad to have him back with me coaching.”
His father was more than elated to have been able to coach his senior son.
“It is an honor and privilege to coach my son,” Duffy said. “I am proud of his successes.”
Anders had little break as he headed out of the interview room to coach Bryson Laytart in his consolation match against Aaron Kelly of Rocky River.
It would be a closely-contested match with the result hanging in the balance on a takedown in the third period. Laytart initiated the move with a hip toss that put Kelly briefly to his back. Before he could secure the move, the Rocky River wrestler had arched up and rolled the Panther wrestler onto his back. It was a quirkey twist of fate for Laytart. He was pinned at the 4:05 mark to be eliminated from further competition. He was visibly upset with the result he had earned on his second time at the State Tournament in his career.
“I need to work all the off-season,” Laytart said. “I need to get it in my head that I am better than the wrestlers that have beaten me. I will push harder in the practice room. When I am about to break, I know I will be getting better. There is always someone working harder than you. I will come right back next year and shoot for a spot on top of the podium.”
Anders smiled and nodded his approval at the comment.
“We have many wrestlers committed to working out with weights and coming to open mats,” Anders said. “Bryson lost a tough match. He will be alright. When the heart can overide the mind — that’s when you push yourself to get better.”
The final competitor for the day for Miami Trace was Jerimiah Jones. He met Nate Gray of Claymont in the consolation round. Claymont is never a good draw for a wrestler at this level. They are good and they have been for 40 years.
Jones pushed Gray throughout the entire match. The two were tied at 5-5 in the third period. Jones had just taken Gray down and Anders was shouting to let him up to take him down again for the win. Jones was called for locking hands before he could let Gray go and was penalized for such. He let Gray up but there was too little time to get that needed takedown.
Jones lost 9-5 to be eliminated. He was exhausted as he gathered himself for an interview. He only spoke of the future and not what could have or should have been at the 2014 State Tournament.
“I need to improve my entire game,” Jones said. “I learned to not let it get to this point. I need to dominate the match from the start. I will stay and support Trent and Russell and drill with them if they need me to. I would like to end it next year on the podium.”
Anders looked over and said, “If he continues to improve as he has the past two years, he will definitely be on it!”
Two Miami Trace wrestlers survived the day. Both need to keep winning if they want to earn All-State status. Friday is a new day at the big arena.