Canfield’s Poullas wins state title

COLUMBUS – Canfield’s Georgio Poullas admits he spends pretty much every day of his life thinking about and training for wrestling.

The sport, in his words, “is a lifestyle.” But as the biggest match of his career approached, Poullas decided to stop thinking about wrestling.

“I tried to relax and not really focus on wrestling until I was close to that moment,” said Poullas about wrestling in the 152-pound state championship on Saturday at the state wrestling tournament. “I didn’t want to over-stress myself. I didn’t want to overthink it. I just wanted to get to that moment and be ready in that moment.”

The calm was there for Poullas, and then, so was the storm.

Poullas dominated Richard Jackson of Toledo Central Catholic in a 5-1 victory, becoming the first state champion for Canfield since Levi Spellman in 1999. He’s the sixth champ overall for the Cardinals.

The feeling was almost too hard to describe for Poullas, a junior who spends his offseasons working out and traveling across the country to different tournaments in order to train for wrestling.

“It was worth it, and I’d do it again,” Poullas said. “(The feeling) is unexplainable – just amazing.”

Poullas, who didn’t yield a single takedown throughout the three-day tournament, looked focused from the start.

He set the tone with a first-period takedown about a minute into the title bout. Poullas chose the bottom position to start the second period and escaped within seconds to take a 3-0 advantage. He padded his lead to 5-0 with another single-leg takedown in the final seconds of the second period.

While he seemed to be well in control from start to finish, Poullas said he never once felt he was in a position to settle down.

“You never want to relax in a match,” he said. “You have to go 100 percent the whole time because the second you relax, the match could be over just like that in wrestling.”

Jackson escaped in the third period but failed to register a takedown as Poullas continued to attack and stay in good position, eventually winning 5-1. He clapped, pointed to his family in the stands and flashed a rare smile as his hand was raised, marking a moment that could be one of the biggest in the program’s history.

“If it does anything, it will motivate everybody else,” Canfield coach Dean Conley said. “All the youth kids from Canfield, all the middle school kids from Canfield, the coaches are all here to see that there’s going to be a defending state champion coming back to our (wrestling) room next year. Placing five kids in the top six down here those aren’t just kids on a wall. They can see and talk to them. If anything, it’s going to drive those kids.”

The Cardinals finished second in the Division II team standings, the highest known finish of any team in the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League, and Poullas led the way.

He finished sixth each of the past two years, and while that’s an impressive accomplishment, it wasn’t enough for a wrestler who expected to win it all. The failures fueled his motivation.

“Last year I came to the state tournament and I lost, and it really brings your confidence down a lot,” Poullas said. “I’ve learned that you’ve got to pick it up through offseason tournaments, going to big tournaments, maybe losing a match or two because wrestling back is (important) in big tournaments. You’ve got to keep your head up all the time.”

There was no wrestling back this time. Poullas won all four of his matches at the state tournament by at least four points, and while he plans on defending his title next year, he stopped himself from looking ahead and thinking about training for next year.

“I think I’ll take the weekend off,” he said with a smile.

He certainly earned it.