COLUMBUS - As Hubbard's Robbie Lias bounced around to warm up prior to his 215-pound match in the consolation quarterfinals of the State Wrestling Tournament, there was a lingering thought in his head.
It was an all too familiar position for Lias, who was matched up against Tallmadge's Nick Thompson, who he lost to twice already this season. As he awaited the match that would determine his placement, he said he thought about the previous defeats.
"I had that on my mind the whole time," said Lias, who finished fifth at the state tournament. "I couldn't let it be three times in one season. I had to get one of them."
It took some extra time - and some extra motivation - but Lias got the job done, beating Thompson, 4-3, in double overtime. He trailed, 3-2, in the second OT, but with 16 seconds remaining, Lias reversed Thompson to take a 4-3 lead. The two went out of bounds and Thompson had one more chance to tie the match, but Lias' will was too strong as he broke Thompson down in the final seconds to secure the victory.
"Revenge is sweet," he said. "I think that's what helped me in overtime. It gave me the urge to keep moving when he was little more tired than me. That's what pushed me, and that's why I had the advantage."
Lias would have wrestled for seventh place if he lost, but with the victory he wrestles today to determine whether he competes for third and fourth or fifth and sixth. It's been a long road to this point after Lias lost a first-round match. He's now won three straight to give himself a high-placement opportunity. Hubbard coach Scott Thompson said it's been sheer determination that drove Lias to this point.
"He was ready - he wanted this match," Scott Thompson said. "As far as he's concerned this was his state championship.
"He lost his first match because of nerves, not ability. He knew that. And after that first match, it was in his head that he was coming back. He has no desire to place anything less than third now."
The feeling of beating a nemesis was a great one, but Lias had two important matches March 7 in the consolation semifinals and then his placement match.
"It feels amazing," he said. "I still have two more (today) though. I definitely have to fight for those. The tournament isn't over. This is a great victory, but I have to keep my focus."
n EAGLES FLYING TO STATE: AKRON - Hubbard junior Anthony Nadeja has been a wrestler who is always quick on his feet.
Feb. 28 at the Division II district tournament at Akron Firestone High School was no exception as the 160-pound wrestler forced an extra session with West Branch's Adam Lamancusa. Within a couple seconds of the overtime, Nadeja finished the job as he had a takedown to win, 6-4, in the their third-place match.
Nadeja's takedown in the final seconds of the third period tied the match at 4.
"No matter how much time is left, you have to wrestle," he said. "Never stop moving helps out."
His third-place finish earns him a state bid.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was a sophomore," Nadeja said. "The hard work eventually paid off."
Like Nadeja, senior Robbie Lias was in a third-place, 215-pound match.
He was sixth last season at districts and was not too keen to be there.
"This year, I was a little more excited," he said following his victory over Geneva's Joshua Buckley.
Lias pinned Buckley in 2:00.
"He had his foot out and I just turned him on his side. From there, I went to work," Lias said.
Now, like Nadeja, he's off to Columbus.
"I'm going to wrestle my hardest and hopefully that will be enough," Lias said.
n PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: BELOIT - The Hubbard wrestling team decided to make a change to its practice schedule this past week and travel to Austintown to tangle with the Falcons in preparation for the sectional tournament on Feb. 21.
The Eagles may want to keep it that way for the rest of the season.
Hubbard had two champions at the Division II sectional tournament at West Branch High School as 160-pound Anthony Nadeja and 215-pound Robbie Lias took home titles.
Nadeja, a junior, beat Bryce Tricker of Howland, 10-1, in the finals. Tricker pinned Nadeja just a week and a half ago on Feb. 11 during a dual meet, but Nadeja said it was around that time he realized that it was time for him to start practicing harder.
''I knew it was down toward the end of the season and I needed to step everything up,'' he said. ''So I started working out in the morning, doing more in practice and running again at night.''
The intensity of practices grew more the past week when the Eagles went to Austintown. Nadeja said wrestling against different kids helped prepare him for the different styles of wrestling he encountered at the sectional tournament.
''You have to wrestle smart because you don't know what the other guy is going to throw at you,'' said Nadeja of the practices. ''You start to look at the way you're wrestling instead of just going out and doing the same moves.''
Nadeja used a number of moves in a dominating victory over Tricker, using a five-point toss in the first period to take a commanding 5-0 lead. He continued to attack in the second and third periods and didn't allow a point until the finals seconds of the match.
Nadeja (18-8) now enters the Akron Firestone district tournament as a No. 1 seed. He said after missing a good portion of the season due to a shoulder injury, he's back to 100 percent.
''I guess you could say I'm in the best shape of my life right now, but there's always something else you can work on,'' he said. ''There's never a perfect wrestler, there's always other things to improve.''
Nadeja will have company down in Akron as Lias won his second straight sectional title. The senior also had a strong performance as he pinned West Branch's Jon Wilson in the first period. Lias, who had a bit of a struggle in the semifinals against Salem's Jon Meissner, said he was able to use his quickness more in the finals. It wasn't apparent right away as Wilson secured a quick takedown, but Lias reacted almost immediately with a reversal and, essentially, a pin.
''Actually, I feel more comfortable on bottom,'' Lias said. ''I caught his leg and that was it.
''I feel like I'm as fast or faster than anyone at 215. If I'm working something to the right side and he opens up on the other side, I can quickly go to the other side and pop a half or something.''
Lias said practicing in Austintown has changed the monotony of practice, and drilling against Austintown's Chris Miller, a returning Division I 215-pound state qualifier, was especially challenging.
''Our conditioning has basically been the same, but we've been practicing with Austintown, so it's been a little bit of a different pace. I get to drill with Chris and it's really helped me a lot. And I think it's going to help me even more down the road.''
Lias and Nadeja narrowly missed out on reaching the state tournament last year. Both needed to win one more match to advance. In Lias' case, he was one point away. The pair made it clear that it's been a career-long goal to make the trip to Columbus.
''I'm determined to get to state this year,'' Nadeja said. ''I missed out by a few points last year. So, I'm putting everything I got into it. I don't want that to happen again.''
Lias knows this is his last chance.
''I feel good right now about myself and about going all the way to state.''