Trying to one-up dad

Girard’s DelGarbino goes for his second state title today

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Girard’s Jack DelGarbino, left, wrestles Johnny Shafer of St. Paris Graham during their Division II 285-pound semifinal Friday at the state wrestling tournament in Columbus. DelGarbino won, 5-2.

COLUMBUS — It’s a rare moment to see Jack DelGarbino express emotion — no matter the situation — but there it was at the end of an otherwise normal interview with two reporters.

The Girard senior didn’t show a speck of excitement when he beat Johnny Shafer of St. Paris Graham in Friday’s Division II 285-pound state semifinal, a victory that sent him back to the state finals. But when someone mentioned having some bragging rights on his dad, Girard assistant coach John “JT” DelGarbino, Jack cracked an ear-to-ear smile.

“It’s a plus,” said Jack of possibly owning two state titles to dad’s one.

Just a plus?

“He’s right there,” he said before bursting into laughter and looking over at his dad, standing a few feet away from him.

The DelGarbinos take wrestling seriously. They apparently take bragging rights even more seriously.

Jack, who won Girard’s first state title last year, will go for his second straight tonight when he faces Alex Coleman (48-3) of Hamilton Ross. The state finals begin at 5: 30 p.m.

JT won a state championship down the street from Girard at Liberty High School back in 1991. He is perfectly OK having one less gold medal than his son.

“After coaching since 1993, you want that for every kid you coach, and it’s a lot of fun trying to achieve it,” he said. “To have it be your own kid, it just amps everything up — the pressure, the nerves, the anxiety, the not sleeping. … When it’s your own kids, and going through what his brother went through a few weeks ago, it just makes it even better.”

The family has been through some ups and downs the last few weeks.

Alex DelGarbino, a junior wrestler for Girard, suffered a hip fracture while wrestling in the sectional championship two weeks ago. Alex said the tendon actually ripped part of the bone off his hip. It was a very painful injury, and he had to be carted off. He will be out for the next few months and missed out on a chance to qualify for the state tournament for the first time.

“He hasn’t missed one of Jack’s practices since (the injury),” JT said of Alex. “That’s kind of an attribute to what kind of kid he is. He’s down here taking pictures of his brother when he had a pretty good shot of getting here.”

If he’s living vicariously through Jack, then he’s enjoying himself.

DelGarbino, now 28-0, has a 77-match unbeaten streak going and has been dominant much of the year. He pinned his first two opponents at the state tournament. In fact, Shafer was the first wrestler he did not beat by either major decision or pin all season. Jack said Shafer stayed out of certain head ties that he likes and forced him to wrestle a different style.

While it kept the match close, DelGarbino never seemed in any real danger of losing.

“He was keeping himself at a distance and keeping his hands on Jack so he couldn’t open up with any shots,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “That’s smart, and on the bottom he was turning his wrists out so we couldn’t get ahold of anything. The kid wrestled him smart, but he wasn’t wrestling to score points, I didn’t think.”

Shafer came somewhat close to tying it in the final period, as he trailed 3-1 and shot in on a single-leg takedown. DelGarbino fought off the attempt and scored to seal the victory.

His next one may not be easy either. Coleman, a junior ranked No. 2 in the state, pinned each of his first three opponents at the tournament, including a 25-second fall in his semifinal bout. DelGarbino, a Princeton University commit, is the top-ranked heavyweight in Division II and is ranked in the top 10 nationally.

“He’s a big, strong Greco-Roman type guy,” Cardiero said of Coleman. “He likes to wrestle upper body. Jack’s ready for both styles. You never know. You’ve got a big guy who’s a pinner — the guy has a lot of pins this year — so if he catches you, he’s going to pin you. He’s big.

“We’re not going to run from him though.”

Last year, DelGarbino faced an aggressive opponent who tried to push him around, and DelGarbino threw him to his back and pinned him in the first minute. It’ll be interesting to see what approach Coleman uses.

It could determine the outcome. More important to Jack, it could determine if he moves one step closer to one-upping his father.

“He wants it,” JT said with a smile. “Trust me, I’ll hear about it. I thought the only thing I had over him was an (Eastern Ohio Wrestling League) MVP, and he got that from me. I’m running out, and it’s a beautiful thing.”