By JAMIE BAKER
UPPER SANDUSKY — Upper Sandusky’s Tylor Pritchard is the Rams’ leader on the football field in the fall and right at home on the wrestling mat in the winter time.
An odd combination?
A quarterback who doubles as a wrestler is certainly rare in the area.
Most of the area’s successful high school quarterbacks, McComb’s Dalton Buck, Leipsic’s Zach Kuhlman and Liberty-Benton’s Mitch Linhart for example, play much of the same role as leaders in the winter for their school’s basketball teams.
Upper Sandusky’s all-North Central Conference quarterback and linebacker grew up around the sport of wrestling.
“Tylor grew up on the wrestling mat as a little boy and since he was three or four years old he always came to football practice with me too,” said Tylor’s stepdad Chris Rodriguez, Upper Sandusky’s head wrestling coach and an assistant football coach.
“When you are a little kid you always want to be a quarterback, you always want to be that guy. When he was little we sent him to a couple of camps, he found something that he liked and he stuck with it.
“On the other side, he’s always been around wrestling and he’s never been around basketball As the old saying goes, you live what you learn. He learned how to be a football player and a wrestler and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Make no mistake, Pritchard isn’t just a wrestler, he’s an athlete.
He threw for more than 1,200 yards and ran for 800 yards in quarterbacking Upper Sandusky to a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, he’s got the build and aggressiveness to make a nice power forward. He would occasionally get a plea from basketball coaches in the past, but Pritchard knew he was born to wrestle.
”My basketball skills aren’t what I would call the best. I’ve had some coaches come up and ask me to play but everyone around town knows Chris and they figured there wasn’t much of a chance of that happening,” Pritchard said with a laugh.
“I think I could have been a good basketball player if I would have worked on it.”
There is a long list of NFL players past and present who wrestled in high school, mostly linebackers and linemen. The only two prominent quarterbacks on the list are the Los Angeles Rams’ Jim Everett and Oakland Raiders’ Jim Plunkett.
There are at least a couple of quarterbacks across the state who, like Pritchard, are standouts on the mat.
Aurora’s George Bollas (182 pounds), who wears the same No. 11 on the football field as Pritchard, is one and Cuyahoga Falls’ Joe Repasky (195) is another.
Pritchard’s wrestling experience has helped him on the football field. Not so much as a quarterback, but as the Rams’ middle linebacker.
“I’d say in football every tackle is a takedown and in wrestling every takedown is a tackle. A lot of those skills go hand in hand,” Pritchard said. “As far as fighting blockers as a linebacker, I’ve learned a lot from wrestling.
“I’m never going to back away from a bigger lineman because of the techniques like fighting for position that I’ve learned in wrestling.”
Pritchard has learned one other lesson in wrestling that he has taken with him to the football field as well.
“Another thing that’s similar in both sports is if you don’t have a work ethic, you won’t be successful,” Pritchard said.
“Wrestling is the hardest sport I’ve ever done. I’ve learned how hard I need to work to be successful on the mat and that’s translated to football because I work as hard as I can to be the best linebacker and quarterback I can be too.”
By JAMIE BAKER