Blake Schafer's run ends on podium in Columbus

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Blake Schaffer of Green (top) defeated Anthony Rizzo of Brecksville in a 182 pound bout during day two of the DI district wrestling tournament at Hoover on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

GREEN  Reaching the state tournament is never a short, one-step journey for a wrestler.

Reaching the highest level for a high school athlete in Ohio takes years of work and often, sees an athlete take incremental steps toward Columbus before getting there.

For Green junior grappler Blake Schafer, that path unfolded over his first two years of high school and now, into his third campaign at the varsity level. He cashed in his ticket to the Division I state tournament with a second-place finish at the North Canton Hoover Division I district meet in the 182-pound weight class.

It was a satisfying feeling after just missing out one year ago.

"It felt good because last year one one my teammates I trained with, he made it to states and I didn't. My goal last year was to make it to states and this year my goal is to place at states," Schafer said.

While his larger goal to win a state title came up a little short last weekend, Schafer still was one of the few who can say they've reached the podium at the state meet as he notched a 7th-place finish. Schafer can use the experience to chase an elusive state title as a senior.

Getting to Columbus is difficult for many reasons, but one of the main factors is dealing with an increasingly high level of competition while seeing the number of teammates around you to cheer you on dwindle as they're eliminated from the postseason.

Instead of having a lot of teammates around to root, cheer and support, a wrestler can find that support group in attendance dwindling quickly with each successive round of the postseason.

"For Green, we're not too big (of a team) as it is and with the tournament the numbers were dropping fast," Schafer said. "With it being just me going down there, I'm drilling with my coaches and we have one other kid I'm training with."

Schafer noted that he hadn't faced many highly ranked opponents this season prior to the tournament, but when he faced one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state in the district semifinals and won, it was a huge confidence boost.

Even though he later dropped an 18-9 decision to Salvatore Perrine of Nordonia in the district final, the second-place result guaranteed he'd be moving on.

Wrestling has already done wonders for Schafer over the past few months as he, like so many students across the country, has done much of his learning behind a computer screen at home instead of in a classroom.

The effects of not being around friends and classmates regularly have included a growing appreciation for his sport and the fact that it gets him out of the house, playing a sport he loves and socializing with coaches and teammates.

"I started wrestling when I was four, did youth wrestling in middle school and when I got to eighth grade, I started thinking about winning a state title," Schafer said. "I love wrestling ...that's my activity to do and my chance to socialize now because don't want to get Covid, so I'm so online schooling until wrestling is done and doing all of my school work at home so I don't risk coming into contact with someone who might have the virus."

Last weekend was the final step in this season's journey for Schaffer, but merely reaching that point has already allowed him to check one more goal off his list. Now, he's off in pursuit of the next one.