The holiday season is here which means high school wrestlers with serious thoughts of wrestling at the state championship tournament in March will need to start their mental and physical preparation right about now.
Three of the county’s four wrestling teams, West Jeff, Madison-Plains and Jonathan Alder all made their way to West Jefferson High School for the opening day of the annual West Jefferson Invitational Tournament Thursday, Dec. 29.
For some it’s just another tournament with a strong field, for others familiar with the grind that it takes to make it to the OHSAA state championships at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center, this is the unofficial beginning of that long trek.
West Jefferson senior Jake Burns who placed fourth at 195 pounds at last year’s D-III state championship tournament cruised to an easy pin in his first match Thursday morning, but knows that all the matches he wrestles at this time of year are important.
“It kind of sets the pace with a big tournament like this,” Burns said. “You take some time off for the holidays and come back and you have to be motivated to get that next match in, have the hunger. But once you get a taste of the mat again it all comes back pretty quick.”
Burns doesn’t necessarily need outside motivation as he and standout West Jeff teammate Josh Doherty (second in state at 160 last year) are focused on getting back to the state and finishing what they started, but he knows it won’t be easy.
“It starts now, from this tournament on it really starts to gear up. You really have to start to hit the grind,” Burns said. “We get more technical and really have to critique everything. I am my biggest critic, but I have to be tough on myself if I want to get to where I want to go.”
In addition to the top two wrestlers at West Jeff, a number of other county standouts competing at the West Jefferson Invitational have aspirations to wrestle at the state tourney including Madison-Plains senior Ryan Fulwider, a state qualifier a year ago, as well as Jonathan Alder’s Jacob Johnson a D-II state qualifier last season.
The other teams competing in the tournament are East Clinton, Logan Elm, Westland, Piqua, Fairfield Union, Southeastern, Hillsboro and Bethel.
The top wrestlers will wrestle as many as 9-10 matches in the two-day event.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.