JACKSON TWP. Call it Wrestling Christmas.
The start of the postseason for high school wrestlers is a gift that they can’t wait to open, whether they’ve had a stellar regular season, a so-so campaign or a disappointing one. The tournament is a chance to start fresh, chase postseason glory and pursue the dream of a state title.
Jackson is among the teams ready to begin the tournament this weekend at Perry High School and veteran head coach Joe Knopick sees a team ready to roll.
"Our guys are really excited. They’ve worked hard for this opportunity and they’re ready for that final push," Knopick said. "They’re excited about the second season and we’re trying to stay healthy and put ourselves in a good position to win."
Knopick noted that wrestling is a unique sport because on the mat once a match begins, a wrestler is on his or her own. Teammates can be nearby, but it’s up to that wrestler to execute, persevere and find a way to win.
However, a wrestler’s training partner plays a big role in that competitor’s success, as they spend hours drilling and working together in practice. Having a good training partner can make a huge difference, even in the postseason, when a team can be scattered all around the gym at sectionals or districts.
Knopick pointed to senior Tyler Tolarcyk as an example of a wrestler who had benefitted greatly from his training partner. Tolaycyk’s training partner is fellow senior Victor Marcelli, a multi-time state qualifier who is among the Jackson wrestlers expected to push for a spot in Columbus.
Wrestling at 170 pounds, Tolarcyk has gone from a competitor hoping for a strong senior season to one Knopick sees as having a chance to open some eyes with a good postseason.
"It’s important to guys that their training partner does well and that they help them cross that finish line," Knopick said. "All year, Victor and Tyler have worked incredibly hard. The influence just happens naturally and with the pace Vic works at, Tyler has been with him every step of the way."
The duo, along with competitors such as Garrett Sin and many of their teammates, face a loaded Perry Division I sectional that will offer a stiff test right out of the gate. Some wrestlers face their toughest test at the district or state level, but the Perry sectional’s track record suggests that depending on the year, a wrestler might have his toughest match in the first few of the postseason.
The Polar Bears set themselves up well for the postseason by defeating Lake in their final match of the regular season. That left Jackson 5-1 in Federal League competition, second behind only Perry, and feeling positive about where its wrestlers stood entering the tournament.
"I’m satisfied with the win and it was nice to end with only one league loss, but I’m most happy with the way our guys competed. They were hungry, aggressive and we’re in great shape and if I can say that every season on February 15, then I’m going to feel good about that," Knopick said.
From here, the question is how many more weekends Jackson wrestling can have where its coaches and wrestlers feel good about where they stand. The ideal answer is three, as that would mean victorious trips to the sectional, district and state tournaments and a chance to place multiple competitors on the podium in Columbus. That’s a gift none of these Polar Bears would mind opening.
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