By JAMIE BAKER
Brutal, rugged and just down right tough.
Those are all a pretty fair description of what Findlay High School’s wrestling team will face today when they step on the mat for the Division I district wrestling tournament at Cleveland State University’s Woodling Gym.
Seven Findlay wrestlers will compete in what is arguably the toughest district tournament in the state right in the center of one of the nation’s hotbeds of wrestling — Northeast Ohio.
With Ohio big-school powers Lakewood St. Edward, Brecksville, Wadsworth and Oregon Clay in the 42-team field, it doesn’t leave much margin for error for everyone else trying to earn one of the four state tournament berths up for grabs in each weight class.
“I guess the best way I can describe this district is that if you finish in the top four here, you’re almost certainly going to place at state the following week,” said Findlay coach Ben Kirian. “It’s that tough of a tournament.”
Expect the unexpected at the district tournament. Kids get sick or injured and some fail to make weight. Others just don’t wrestle up to par and often a pre-tournament favorite gets bounced into the consolations on the first day.
Kirian thinks some of his Trojans could be that wrestler that pulls off a surprise or two and reaches the state tournament.
“We’re going to have to wrestle really well to qualify, but we have some kids wrestling very well right now,” Kirian said. “Jimmy Staschiak was fourth at sectionals but he doesn’t wrestle like a No. 4 guy, and Marcus Molina has been tough at 220 pounds and has gotten some really big wins. I like the way a lot of our kids are wrestling right now.”
Staschiak, a sophomore, is 29-18 at 132 pounds while Molina, a junior sectional champ, is 25-14 at 220 for Findlay.
Seniors Taylor Opp (38-8 record, 170 pounds) and Kory Knox (20-13, 285), juniors Ian Silette (31-12, 182) and Marcus Winkeljohn (14-5, 195), and sophomore Justin Jolliff (39-8, 120) round out the Trojans’ district contingent.
All, except Molina and Winkeljohn, have previous district tournament experience. Kirian already sees a difference between least year’s group and this year’s veteran crew.
“Everyone seems a little more relaxed this year, loose. There seems to be a big difference because the kids are a little more relaxed,” Kirian said.
“For our seniors like Taylor Opp and Kory Knox, this is their last chance. I know they want to make the most of it.”
By JAMIE BAKER