By JAMIE BAKER
There will be no flying under the radar this season for Fostoria senior Tony Reynolds.
He learned that first-hand at his opening tournament of the season, Findlay’s Trojan Duals.
In an early-round dual match against Hicksville, Reynolds trotted onto the mat to wrestle at 170 pounds. But the Aces decided to forfeit to Reynolds, a returning state placer, and bump their wrestler up to 182 for an easier match.
“It’s irritating, you come here to wrestle and then to have the other team forfeit around you is just frustrating,” Reynolds said.
Last year was a bit of a different story for Reynolds. He had an up and down regular season before stepping on the gas during the postseason for the Redmen on his way to a sixth-place finish at the OHSAA state tournament at 170 pounds.
Reynolds was one of just a handful of wrestlers with 14 or more losses to even qualify for the state tournament and he was the only 17-loss wrestler to end up with a spot on the awards stand on the final day of the tournament. Reynolds closed his junior year with a 36-17 record.
“Going into sectionals, people expected me to maybe go 1-2 and not even advance. At districts, people said I got lucky and made it out of sectionals and I didn’t stand a chance at making it to state,” Reynolds said with a grin.
“When I got to state people thought maybe I’d win a match and be done. Nope, I placed. I definitely was flying under the radar last season.
“When you are underestimated, you really have nothing to lose. You just go out and give it your all and whatever happens, happens. Last year proved hard work really does pay off.”
Earning that shiny state tournament medal last March not only changed the way opposing teams approach matches against Reynolds, it’s changed the way he prepared for the season as well.
“I have taken things a lot more seriously this year, especially in the summer. I did a lot more work on wrestling last summer than I ever have before,” Reynolds said. “Now, a lot of times I get up at 6 a.m. and roll around a little before school and then practice after school, too.”
Fostoria coach Nick Davis has certainly seen a change in Reynolds this season. His ace is much more confident at this point of the season as compared to last year and it’s shown in his performance on the mat.
Reynolds has been perfect for the Redmen this season and sports an 11-0 record heading into tonight’s Northern Buckeye Conference triangular at Elmwood.
“Tony’s attitude is 100 percent better than last year when he started the year. He put in a lot of mat time and wrestled a lot of matches last summer. He’s starting the season hungry, that’s the big thing,” Davis said.
“He’s also doing a great job in the wrestling team too being a leader for us helping the younger guys.”
If you didn’t know Reynolds was a returning state medalist, he might be easy to overlook. At 6-foot-3, he’s lean and looks a little skinny compared to some of his shorter and stouter opponents.
But those looks are deceiving.
“He’s deceptively strong and has a great grip because he has absolutely huge hands. Tony also has awesome, just awesome, hips,” Davis said. “He defends shots well and can hip over kids like no one I have ever coached. He rides the legs well, too. He’s really a natural.”
Reynolds has a modest goal, to get back to state and place higher than he did last season. But his coach has a much loftier goal in mind.
“I always try and stay as positive as possible with him and we talk about a state championship,” Davis said. “We’ve talked about it, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility. We’ll see a lot of good guys in the weight class coming up at Perrysburg and Van Buren, so that will be a good judge of where he’s at.
“I don’t think Tony wrestling for a shot at a state title on Saturday night is out of the question, not at all.”