Girard junior wrestler chasing his dream

GARFIELD HEIGHTS – One point has been on the mind of Zane Chase for about a year now.

It ate at him all spring, summer and fall. It inspired him when nothing else did. And Friday, at the first day of the Division III district wrestling tournament at Garfield Heights High School, that one point helped him advance to the semifinals.

“I lost two matches (at the district tournament) by one point last year,” said Chase, a junior 120-pound wrestler for Girard. “It pushed me to work harder in every practice. Whenever I was down or I felt like I couldn’t go on, I thought about that one point that I could get in those matches.”

Chase won both of his bouts and is one win away from reaching the state tournament. He beat Heath Martin, 9-2, in the first round, and then edged Jacob Spino, who entered the match with a 35-7 record, by two points in the quarterfinals. He squares off with Sammy Gross, a returning state champion, in the semifinals today. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m.

Chase came into the tournament with a modest 19-12 record, but as Girard coach Jim Cardiero said, records mean very little this time of year.

“He’s been losing some close matches all year and getting down on himself, but I keep telling him, ‘The postseason is when you shine,’ and I guess I was right,” Cardiero said. “He wrestled well here last year, and he did it again today. He’s gotta win one more though.”

Another victory, either in the semifinals or the consolation semifinals (where Chase would fall to if he lost), would send Chase to the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus – the site of the state tournament. That’s been a goal of Chase’s since he walked through the doors at Girard High School. The thought of being in such a position probably would have made him shake in his singlet last year, but the experience he went through in 2012 helped him understand that he’s ready.

“It takes away the nerves,” he said. “I was definitely more ready this year than I was last year. Knowing that I got to this tournament last year, and I got a taste of it, it made me want it so much more to get past this and to the next level.”

One of the reasons Chase wasn’t able to advance as a sophomore was because of his lack of production from the neutral position. He worked on getting in better shape, lifted throughout the offseason and drilled in a way that’s helped him finish moves in all sorts of positions.

“You have to drill different moves and different situations with the move,” he said. “If you get stuck in one aspect of the move, you have to know what to do to get the guy down a different way.”

Cardiero noticed the difference – and so did his opponents. Chase hit a four-point move against Spino in the quarterfinals, and it started when he hit a double-leg takedown. He finished it off with two back points to give him a 5-1 lead. He won, 5-3.

“(Assistant) coach Walt Brame has been working with him every day after practice, so he deserves a lot of credit,” Cardiero said. “Zane, from the first day of practice to the last one, he’s always giving me 100 percent. When you work hard at practice and you wrestle every match full go, you can’t help but get conditioned.”

Chase could have company in Columbus. Five of Girard’s six wrestlers (Chase, Dominic Gainey, James Cupan, Nick Cardiero and Ryan Leasure) won at least one match on Friday and have a chance at reaching the state tournament.

“It’s definitely the biggest goal of mine – other than winning the state championship,” said Chase of going to the state tournament. “That was the goal coming into this year, a goal ever since I’ve been in high school, and I can taste it.”