Tayala proves haters wrong

KENT – Matthias Tayala isn’t the Incredible Hulk. Though he might be built like the fictional green superhero, he doesn’t turn green and double his size when made angry.

Instead, he just goes out and wins NCAA championships.

The Kent State University junior was well aware of a message board post stating Oklahoma State’s Nick Miller would beat Tayala “like a red headed step child” before the NCAA Track and Field Championships. However, it did more than draw the 2011 McDonald High School graduate’s ire. It fueled the fire for what would be a life-altering event for the KSU hammer thrower.

He knew he was at least third coming into his final throw, already establishing a distance of 70.47 meters at the NCAA Track and Field Championships earlier this month.

“Going into the last throw, I tried to get the crowd involved. It got the adrenaline going a lot. The technique was pretty good on that one,” Tayala said.

All that frustration and anger boiled over as the KSU thrower bellowed out numerous times as to egg on the 16-pound metal ball attached to a wire.

Whoever anonymously posted the slam on Tayala had the opposite effect as he harnessed his emotions into that final throw which travelled 73.57 meters (241 feet, 4 inches) – a new personal best. Nobody came close as Tayala won the national championship in the hammer.

The throw was the 24th best in U.S. history.

“It really did, honestly,” Tayala said of the message board post motivating him. “Some people don’t take criticism well. If people talk down about them, they tend not to do so well. It really boosts me up and it gets me going. We pretty much talk every day at practice, calling me ‘red-headed stepchild’ on there. Coach told me about that every day to get me going. Criticism or downing me gets me at my best. People do that, it really helps me out.”

How does he harness that frustration into his throws?

Just look at the tattoo on the inside of his left arm, which displays a saying in Finnish. Tayala’s father, Steve, who attended Warren G. Harding High School, is of Finnish decent. The tattoo, which says “sisu” is loosely translated as will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

That sure describes Tayala.

“My dad really liked this word and I see it every day,” he said. “If I’m having a rough day, I look at that. It makes me overcome that day and persevere through it.”

Now, the merriment has died down and Tayala and KSU throws coach Nathan Fanger are back at work. The two are fine tuning Tayala’s throws heading into the June 26 USA Championships men’s hammer throw finals in Sacramento.

He might be a NCAA national champion, but he’s got to prove himself against better competition.

“You don’t have to do a lot, but you do have to maintain your peak,” Fanger said. “We need to keep the central nervous system moving. You don’t want to overload the body with the weight room. You don’t want to overload the body with too many throws either. It’s keeping things in check. You want to keep moving fast.

“If you’re re-energized, you’ve got energy in the body and you’re ready to go against the big dogs. The NCAAs are awesome, but when you go to the USAs you’ve got guys at 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 (meters).”

Tayala will also compete in the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association in Kamloops, British Columbia on Aug. 10.

Will this eventually parlay this in a trip to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio?

Fanger did the math on the flight home from NCAAs in Oregon and figured out Tayala would need to be in the 77 to 79 meter range for him to be possibly going to South America in 2016.

“To put himself in that position after three years, I think for the next two years of training, if we keep healthy and keep smart, Rio is a pretty good shot, which is awesome,” Fanger said.

But that is two years off and Tayala wants to concentrate on his summer meets.

“If 2016 happens, that would be great. I’m still really young,” he said. “I got 2020 and 2024. That’s a goal for 2016, but a lot could happen between now and then. I’m just worried about this USAs and NACACs.”

And, he can take pride in he’s not only a two-time Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state champion in the shot put and discus, but captured gold at the collegiate level as well.

“My dad was telling me you’re not just a conference champion, not just a state champion, regional champion, you’re like the national champion,” Tayala said. “That really stuck out to me and it feels great.”