Stories of state champs will be told

PRETTY much every job has tasks that workers despise, but they’re part of the job, so they must be done.

Nurses and doctors, for example, have the unenviable task of telling loved ones that a family member just passed away. Teachers must deal with the endless needs of dozens of rambunctious kids, all day every day (nothing more needs to be said). Police and firemen often risk their lives for complete strangers. Businessmen can be asked to work ridiculous hours, causing them to miss family events and time with their loved ones.

Heck, even well-paid bosses have to fire people they might like or have created a longstanding relationship with over the years.

There’s always something.

One of those challenges surfaced last Saturday, when four local high school wrestlers were competing for state championships — all within about 30 minutes of one another. As a writer, trying to capture the moment of just one state champion can be difficult, but attempting to depict four — in one story — is downright impossible.

When the Individual State Wrestling Tournament ends at roughly 10 p.m., and your deadline is midnight, good luck interviewing four coaches, four wrestlers, taking photos, writing cutlines for those photos, tabulating results and writing a story that encapsulates it all in a two-hour span. Oh, a proofread of the end product is always wise, too.

Now, don’t confuse this for complaining. The state wrestling tournament is my favorite event to cover, but I simply feel like I failed to do those four wrestlers justice when it comes to explaining the effort, drive, focus and guts it took for them to accomplish such a monumental feat.

Honestly, just thinking about being in their shoes makes me nervous. Years and years of hard work, sacrifice and pouring your heart and soul into a sport that can seem miserable at times comes to a head on the biggest stage in front of more than 12,000 fans. That’s as pressure-packed a situation as you’ll face as a high school wrestler.

The OHSAA does a fantastic job setting the scene. There are 28 wrestlers competing in three divisions (84 participants overall), and they all walk out of a tunnel in two lines. Clouds of dry ice envelop the front of the tunnel, with pyrotechnics shooting out flames as the competitors walk out. Giant strobe lights shoot across a darkened Schottenstein Arena (the same venue Ohio State University plays its basketball games) as the crowd erupts.

The groups then stand on a huge platform that covers most of the arena’s floor. Three mats lay on the raised horizontal surface, representing each division, and one weight class is wrestled at a time, with the PA announcer bellowing out the names of each participant.

It’s one of the more dramatic and entertaining high school state championships you’ll get to see. Finding a way to keep your wits — and nerves — about you during the course of all this must be incredibly challenging, but four kids from the area found a way, and they did it in style.

The four kids I’m referring to are Girard’s Jack DelGarbino, Pymatuning Valley’s Gaige Willis and Canfield’s duo of David Crawford and Tyler Stein. Throughout the next week, there will be a story on each wrestler, accurately depicting their championship moments, the secret formula that allowed them to reach that point and what’s next in their career.

Two of the four (Stein and DelGarbino) are juniors and return to defend their crowns, while the other two are seniors headed to prominent colleges to continue their academic and athletic careers. The foursome was part of a wildly successful postseason for the area.

Eleven of the 19 wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament from the Tribune Chronicle coverage area placed in the top eight. When including all 27 teams from the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League, there were 34 participants and 20 placed. Considering the level of competition at the state level, and that simply advancing to the tournament is a major accomplishment in itself, 20 of 34 (59 percent) is a remarkable number.

Four of those 34 stood alone at the end, and their stories deserve to be told. It’s all part of the job, a part I enjoy.

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