Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back to the mat

February and March are two of my favorite months of the year for high school sports.

It's the time of year when I return to one of my favorite high school sports: wrestling.

This year, I'll be at the final day of the Division I Mentor District on Saturday covering the tournament for The News-Herald and it should be fun. The pressure these wrestlers face to qualify for the state tournament in Columbus is enormous, which only adds to the drama.

For me, covering wrestling brings back plenty of memories. I covered Mentor coach Ken Skilton's first dual match (remember those?) against Kenston back in the late 1990s. Skilton always reminds me of that when I see him during the wrestling postseason.

Then there's Madison coach Ryan Wirtzberger, who was an excellent wrestler for the Blue Streaks in the late 90s. He wrestled one of the finest state tournaments I've ever watched in 1998 in Dayton, reaching a state final before losing a tight match. Madison is still searching for its first state champion in wrestling.

Under then coach Gary Fortuna, I thought it was only a matter of time the Blue Streaks produced a champion, but it hasn't happened. That's what makes wrestling such a difficult sport. A kid could work the hardest and be the most talented, yet nothing is guaranteed. Wrestling is that difficult.

Looking forward to Saturday at the Meatgrinder.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


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