By JAMIE BAKER
There was a point at Saturday’s district tournament when Upper Sandusky senior Cory Frey’s back was up against the wall and his season was hanging in the balance.
He did what coach Chris Rodriguez had told him to do all season long — he got one more.
And that one more takedown helped Frey post a 7-5 overtime win against Western Reserve’s Tim Hunkley in his go-to-state match at 160 pounds at BGSU’s Stroh Center.
“I told him to get up right before the overtime and he smacked himself on the chest and said, ‘I got it,’” Rodriguez said.
“That’s the way we practice every day, get up and get one more. That’s what our boys do.”
And at Upper Sandusky, they’ve done it all season long.
The Rams weren’t even on the radar at the beginning of the season. Things began to change, though, as the Rams rolled up wins in the inaugural OHSAA state dual meet tournament.
They qualified for the Division III state team tournament bowling out in a close match with Versailles in the opening round.
Fast forward a few short weeks and the Rams were on the mat at BGSU holding the Division III Northwest District runner-up trophy with six wrestlers qualified for this week’s OHSAA state tournament.
In addition to Frey, juniors Dylan Robertson (195), Carson Mengerink (113), Alex Kenner (152), Tylor Pritchard (182) and freshman Thurston Dyer (106) will also get their shot at a state title at Value City Arena beginning on Thursday.
Only Amanda-Clearcreek, with eight qualifiers, will have more wrestlers than Upper Sandusky in the Division III state tournament. Odds-on team championship favorite Troy Christian also qualified six.
Not too shabby considering when Rodriguez took over the program during the 2006-07 season, he started with just seven wrestlers on the squad at Upper Sandusky.
“Their hunger to win, that’s the big thing with these boys. At the beginning of the year they thought they could be good and every week they got better and better,” Rodriguez said.
“To be honest with you, our practices are brutal at times. The words ‘get up’ are bad words to those boys because I say it so much.
“Kid hits a takedown in practice and sits there for a half a second and I scream at them get up, get up. My assistants and I are on them every step of the way. We push them every day in practice.”
Rodriguez and his coaching staff have pushed the Rams — all the way to Columbus.
Upper Sandusky has never had more than two state qualifiers in a single season and a total of nine state placers during its history, including Rodriguez who finished sixth for the Rams in Division II at 160 pounds in 1990.
Look for that number of state placers to grow this year and next as the Rams look for “one more” this weekend at Value City Arena.
“The boys, the way they fight, they’ve made me so proud all season. Not just the boys who are going to state, but all of our kids from the best wrestler to the worst wrestler,” Rodriguez said. “They go out and fight to win every match, they did it at districts and they’ve done it for us all season long.
“I’m proud of my boys, my coaches are proud of these boys and those fans up there are proud of those boys, too.”
Upper Sandusky State Placers
Rick Young, Class AA State Champ, 285 pounds, 1986
David Doty, Division II 2nd place, 215 pounds, 1999
Trey Vince, Division II 2nd place, 130 pounds, 2001
Bill Blum, Class AA 3rd place, HWT, 1983
Brian Patrick, Class AA 3rd place, 138 pounds, 1984
Trey Vince, Division II 3rd place, 130 pounds, 2002
Brian Patrick, Class AA 4th place, 145 pounds, 1985
Brian Patrick, Class AA 5th place, 132 pounds, 1983
Chris Rodriguez, Division II 6th place, 160 pounds, 1990