Mr. Personality

Canfield’s Crawford a fun guy, except to opponents

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Canfield’s Nick Crawford, right, wrestles Terion Stewart of Sandusky during the preliminary round of the OHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Thursday.

COLUMBUS — It would be difficult to confuse Nick Crawford with his older brother, David.

Sure, there are some similarities in the way they look, but that’s where the likeness ends. Where David, now a redshirt freshman wrestler at Pitt, is quiet and serious more often than not, Nick, a junior at Canfield, is a bit more unpredictable and humorous.

“Nick has a personality that is unlike any other kid I’ve ever been around,” Canfield coach Steve Pitts said. “He’s funny, he’s charming — it’s not like a typical high school kid’s. He’s unique, for sure.

“He’s different than his brother,” he added. “His brother was very business-like, and when it’s time to be business-like, (Nick) is, but in the practice room he’s loose. He’s a happy kid and fun to be around.”

That changes when he’s on the wrestling mat. He’s not nearly as pleasant. It’s also an area in which he’d like to be a little more like his brother, in some ways, at least.

David won back-to-back state titles for the Cardinals in 2017 and 2018 (the first to do so in school history). Nick placed fifth last year, and he hopes to add to the family’s collection of gold medals this season. He’s off to a good start.

The 195-pound Crawford won his first-round match Thursday at the OHSAA individual state tournament inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus and advanced to today’s quarterfinal round. Nick beat Terion Stewart of Sandusky, 3-2, and wrestles sixth-ranked Owen Loughman of Thornville Sheridan today. Wrestling starts at 10 a.m.

Crawford is ranked as high as No. 2 in the state, but second isn’t the goal.

“I want to get to the finals, take it all the way,” Nick said. “Last year when I was here, I didn’t really think of it like that. I was just kind of happy to be here, happy to get on the podium. This year it’s different for me.”

Crawford is often the overlooked star wrestler for the Cardinals, who are blessed with several state-ranked athletes. There’s 220-pound senior Tyler Stein, a top-ranked Ohio State recruit and a returning state champion, as well as 182-pound Anthony D’Alesio, a No. 1-ranked junior with several major Division I colleges looking at him.

Crawford, also a standout on the football team, is right there with them. He owns a 37-2 record, was a state champion in junior high and has several schools recruiting him — including Pitt, Kent State, Akron, Cincinnati and Ohio University — for both football (he’s a strong safety and running back) and wrestling.

His overall skills as an athlete are what Pitts said make Crawford so dangerous.

“His athleticism really helps him,” he said. “For a guy his size, he can really move in different ways. And he’s well-coached, being the son of a wrestling coach, and his older brother has the pedigree. He’s been around wrestling a lot, and a lot of times you get big kids that maybe started (wrestling) in seventh or eighth grade, so he’s got a jump on a lot of kids. That helps, but his athleticism is really something.”

So is his sense of humor.

Some wrestlers can become mentally unhinged by comparing the rankings of different state prognosticators, doubting their chances to win because a certain wrestler is ranked higher than them. Crawford, who’s ranked No. 2 in the State Tournament Prediction Report by Josh Lowe and No. 3 in the Boro Fan Almanac by Billy Schaefer, is definitely not one of those kids.

“I just use it to mess with my friends,” he said with a smile. “I just make fun of them, like, ‘Ha! You’re ranked fourth, and I’m ranked third,’ or ‘D’Alesio, you’re No. 1. Don’t get beat because I’m No. 3. You’ll be lower than me.’

“It’s just fun to mess with people. I don’t look at like I’m No. 3 in the state. That’s me. That’s my spot. I don’t think of it like that at all.”

Neither does his coach.

The Cardinals crowned two champions last year (Dave Crawford and Stein), and they have a chance at even more in 2019. They won five of their six first-round matches Thursday, with Nick Barber (106 pounds), Ben Cutrer (170), D’Alesio (182), Crawford and Stein (220) all winning. David Reinhart (160) lost his first match but won his second. Canfield is sixth overall in the team standings with 14.5 points.

Pitts isn’t one to expect anything but the best from a team that’s finished as state runner-up three straight years.

“The expectation is to go win,” Pitts said. “And if that doesn’t happen, then the expectation is to get the next best thing. That’s always our mentality. Losses are going to happen. This isn’t life or death. We just want them to do their best every time out, and if a loss happens, get the next best thing. But we want him (Nick) to be a state champ, that’s for sure.”