By JAMIE BAKER
It’s been a long time coming.
After nearly a quarter of a century, long before sophomore Tyler Sarreshteh was even born, a Liberty-Benton wrestler will again step on the mat at this weekend’s Van Buren Invitational.
But he won’t just be competing, he’ll be one of the favorites in the 113-pound weight class when the VBI begins with preliminary round action on Friday at 5 p.m.
Sarreshteh is a one-man team for the Eagles, who last fielded a wrestling team in the late 1980s before the school dropped the sport.
After a successful season as an open-enrollment student at Findlay High School last year, Sarreshteh used the one-time exemption offered under OHSAA bylaws to return to his home district of Liberty-Benton where he attended school from kindergarten through the sixth grade.
“The coaches and my teammates were great at Findlay but the school is so big, I never felt comfortable there,” said Sarreshteh, who was a Division I district qualifier for the Trojans last season.
“I went to Van Buren in junior high because L-B didn’t have wrestling so I have always went to small schools growing up. I always wanted to wrestle at L-B but they didn’t have a team.”
The family worked with the athletic department staff to get the Liberty-Benton board of education and OHSAA approval for Sarreshteh to represent the Eagles this season as an individual.
Since he has no teammates to workout with, Sarreshteh is a wrestling nomad.
He heads to Columbus twice a week for workouts with former University of Findlay wrestler Miron Karchilava and two days a week Carey allows him to participate in their practices with OHSAA approval. He also works out at Perrysburg and Eastwood as well.
Not having practices at Liberty-Benton can be challenging. Sarreshteh and his step-dad Greg Richards have been on the road quite a bit, and sometimes, don’t get back to town until after 11 p.m.
But there are some advantages too.
“At first, it was hard to adjust to practices, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Sarreshteh said. I’ve gotten used to the people since we go to a lot of the same places for practices each week.
“We get to travel and wrestle the best kids around. And I always get to wrestle the best competition in the room in practice. I get a lot of different looks in practice and that can only help.”
Although, Sarreshteh has changed uniforms from Findlay’s blue and gold to L-B’s red, white and blue, he hasn’t missed a beat.
He opened the season by winning a championship at Northwood Invitational. He was a match away from placing at the difficult Medina Invitational Tournament and placed fourth last weekend against a challenging field at the 32-team Marion County Invitational.
The VBI will be the closest thing to a home match Sarreshteh will get to wrestle this season. There will be plenty of family, friends and classmates in the stands watching him and he can’t wait to get back on the mat this weekend.
“I grew up working at the tournament every year when I was younger. I wrestled for Van Buren in junior high and I always wanted to wrestle in it because I always loved the the atmosphere of the VBI,” Saarreshteh said.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to wrestle at the VBI up until this year, so I’m pretty excited about it.”
By JAMIE BAKER