State champ or bust for Howland’s Whisler

HOWLAND – Setting a reminder on a cell phone is pretty standard these days, and some are a little more important than others.

Whether it’s a beep, a Jay-Z rhyme or some annoying chimes that leave a jingle stuck in your head all day, the alarm that goes off usually holds some meaningful information, or it wouldn’t have been set.

Parents may have a “Pick up the kids from practice” note in their phones (that’s usually a pretty imperative one). There’s the “take the dog out” memo for others (always significant to those who value their carpet). Or maybe a kid has “Study for science test” popping up the day before a final or midterm (anyone who hopes to get a job one day should probably follow suit).

For David-Brian Whisler, a junior on the Howland wrestling team, his daily reminder is a little different than most, but it means just as much to him as a parent who needs to pick up the kids.

“I’m going to be a state champion,” Whisler said. “I have a reminder that goes off on my phone every day to remind me. And I have a piece of tape on my mirror that does the same thing.

“It’s such an awesome thing to say, ‘I’m a state champion.’ Once you win, it’s just an amazing feeling. I don’t want to say it’s a weight off your shoulders, it’s just so nice that all that hard work paid off.”

His words may sound slightly cocky, but the soft-spoken Whisler is nothing of the sort. Realistic is a better-suited word, according to his coach, Bill Beasom. The kid did win a state title as an eighth-grader, and he’s also a three-time state freestyle champ, but after finishing fourth in the OHSAA State Wrestling Championships as a sophomore last year, Whisler isn’t settling for any consolation prizes.

“Everyone’s goal is different in wrestling,” Whisler said. “Mine is to be a state champion.”

He’s doing everything he can to be just that.

Whisler participated in some of the most difficult offseason tournaments in the country during the past few months. He competed in the Fargo Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals, both of which are widely regarded as the toughest amateur wrestling events in the country. This past Friday and Saturday he took part in the Ironman Tournament at Walsh Jesuit High School, an in-season tournament that only invites the best wrestlers and teams from around the country. Whisler came down with bronchitis earlier in the week, but he continued to wrestle and placed eighth.

His work ethic is as good or better than any wrestler Beasom has ever seen. The fifth-year Howland coach believes Whisler can give the Tigers their second state champion in as many years (Gabe Stark won the 145-pound Division II title last season).

“This is the best I’ve ever seen him look,” said Beasom, who added that Whisler was the first Howland wrestler to ever be invited to the Ironman. “They wanted him in there because he’s one of the best in the state. I think he’s ranked as the 10th best junior in the country at his weight. In some publications, he’s ranked No. 1 in the state.”

Whisler’s most glaring physical attributes are his quickness and a near-flawless technique. He said he doesn’t spend hours in the weight room because he doesn’t want to grow bulky or lose his flexibility, so he focuses on gaining a better understanding of the sport. He accomplishes that by traveling to different tournaments and joining wrestling clubs that possess some of the top wrestlers in the nation. This training occurs during the summer, when most kids are enjoying their free time at the pool or by playing the newest “Call of Duty” video game.

Putting that stuff aside to focus on wrestling isn’t a problem for Whisler.

“I love the sport,” he said. “I love everything about it. I love traveling, and if you want to be good at something, you have to make sacrifices. I love the sport so much, it’s definitely worth the sacrifice. The people I’ve met in wrestling, those are the people I’m going to be friends with my whole life.”

It’s a life full of wrestling – and strange reminders on his phone – for Whisler. He understands the pressure that comes along with a “state title or bust” mentality, but the pressure of the sport is what drives him.

“I love being out in the center of the mat, in front of everybody,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”