Canfield’s Stein says yes to Buckeyes

Tyler Stein’s response said it all.

The Canfield wrestler received a text message one day after school. It was this past February, so Stein was nearing the end of his junior season and had yet to capture his eventual state title at 220 pounds.

That didn’t stop a certain prominent school from recruiting him.

“I got this text from Anthony Ralph, who is one of the coaches, and he was talking about recruiting and stuff for Ohio State, and my heart literally dropped,” said Stein, still sounding surprised. “I was like, ‘What? Me?’ “

Yes, indeed, Ohio State University was recruiting Stein, a two-time state qualifier and one-time champion who can repeat this coming season.

Not surprisingly, Stein accepted the offer and will be a Buckeye after his senior year at Canfield. He’s the first Mahoning Valley wrestler to join Ohio State since four-time state champion Tony Jameson of Austintown Fitch in 2008.

Stein is the fourth Division I college wrestling recruit from Canfield in the past three years, joining David Crawford (Pitt), Georgio Poullas (Cleveland State) and Mason Giordano (Cleveland State).

“No, not at all,” said Stein, when asked if he ever envisioned himself joining the Buckeyes, the reigning Big Ten champion and national runners-up. “I used to go to matches and watch these guys online, and I’m like, ‘Wow, these guys are beasts.’ … I for sure never saw myself there.”

Stein reached the state tournament as a sophomore, but he admittedly didn’t wrestle his best. He made up for it as a junior, finishing 49-3 and beating Brandon Phillips of Maumee, 7-3, in the Division II 220-pound state final.

He first started to open eyes last offseason, when he placed at two different national tournaments. That’s when Canfield coach Steve Pitts saw him start to take his wrestling to another level.

“If you look at his resume, and he’s not the kind of kid to tout his accomplishments,” Pitts said, “but obviously he’s a state champion. He’s a multiple time all-American, placing in two really big national tournaments, and he’s the 11th-ranked wrestler in his weight class in the entire country. You put that into perspective, and his resume speaks for itself.

“A school like Ohio State is going to try to get the best in-state talent, and they’re going to get one of them in Tyler, for sure.”

Stein said he was considering a few other schools, specifically West Virginia and Navy, before the Buckeyes came calling. He also was thinking about playing football in college, but the linebacker said none of the schools recruiting him came close to being a Division I power like Ohio State.

“For me, I feel like I have more opportunity to wrestle in college, and I think it’s going to be a better experience for me,” said the 6-foot, 210-pound Stein before pausing and explaining another reason that football wasn’t the first option. “I don’t think I’m tall enough either.”

He fits the mold as a wrestler.

His style will translate as well, according to Pitts. A physical specimen whose parents own a training facility, Stein has the strength to compete at the highest level. This year, he combined that with a fundamentally sound wrestling style.

Pitts said Stein isn’t one to use flashy moves or upper-body throws. He focuses on the basics, which is why Pitts sees Stein succeeding at the collegiate level.

“That’s our program philosophy,” Pitts said of the style. “This group of kids, I actually coached them in junior high, so they’ve gotten the same technique for four or five years now, and they’re probably bored with it, but I tell them it works. I’m not going to try to show you things that aren’t going to work at the highest level.

“We’re trying to prepare kids to wrestle in college, and if you look at college kids and what they’re good at, they’re good at the basics, and that’s what we preach.”

Before his time in Columbus comes, Stein has his sights set on another state title. Recently graduated Canfield alumnus David Crawford became the school’s first back-to-back state champion this past season. Stein expects to become the second.

“I know I have a target on my back,” Stein said. “I know everyone at my weight wants to beat me now. I was that guy at one point that was always looking for the person and put a target on people. Now, being that guy, I realize what I have to do this offseason, lifting wise and conditioning wise. Now for me, it’s just staying on top.”