Chandler Evanichko had his fill of mediocrity.
The junior heavyweight for the Grove City High School wrestling team was a .500 performer before deciding to make the necessary sacrifices to become one of the area's top competitors in his weight division.
Last season, he entered the Division I sectional tournament at Central Crossing at 17-17 overall, but ended up winning to advance to district at Hilliard Darby.
"I had a spark in me the last few weeks of the season," said Evanichko, who entered this week 28-3 overall with 24 pins and one technical fall. "I watched a lot of film, and I worked hard. I just got tired of being the guy going out there and getting beat. I improved a lot over the season, especially in the last three weeks, and I knew I could go out and (win sectional)."
Evanichko defeated three seeded wrestlers en route to winning his sectional title. A week later, he went 1-2 at district and did not qualify for state.
"I was scared at district. I was eliminated by a kid who I had beaten by a few points earlier in the year," said the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Evanichko, who finished 21-19 last season. "I was so nervous. (The gym) was filling up (with fans) before finals and I walked out and there were so many people there. I never saw that many people before at a match, but I'll be ready this time."
Evanichko was the third-rated heavyweight in last week's Division I district poll behind Hilliard Davidson senior Travis Gusan and Dublin Scioto senior Yoshi Akutsu. Evanichko lost to Akutsu 21-6 in the second round at district last year, and his first loss this season came against Akutsu, an 18-9 major decision in a semifinal of the Panther Invitational on Dec. 15 at Pickerington North.
"I didn't wrestle well from the neutral position, which is the standing position," said Evanichko, who placed third at Pickerington North. "I have to be able to beat people from the neutral position, not just when I'm down on the mat. Also, I realized that I have to stay calm and control things during matches."
In the 26-team Michael Casey Maumee Bay Classic held Jan. 18 and 19 at Oregon Clay, Evanichko went 4-2 with three pins and placed fifth.
The Greyhounds finished 17th (55.5) behind champion Clay (203). Senior Zane Chappelear (152) finished fourth, senior Tavon Hudson (195) placed seventh and junior Cornelius Marshall (120) and junior Justin Belmonte (220) both placed eighth.
Evanichko won his weight class in the nine-team Porter Memorial held Jan. 11 and 12 at Hilliard Bradley.
"Chandler doesn't like to wrestle like a heavyweight. He wrestles more like a 145-pounder," coach Jay DiMasso said. "He kind of has both aspects through his movement and by being a bruiser. He can get in and do some bruising. Some of it looks slow-paced, but he likes to move around on the mat."
Evanichko said that is one of his secrets to success.
"I'm better on the top and bottom than in the neutral position," he said. "I move around a lot for a heavyweight and that makes them chase me. I make them work when they want to wrestle lazy.
"I let (my opponents) come in, lock up and try to throw me. Coach DiMasso, coach (Rick) Tidwell and coach (Brian) Teters have been working with me on that."
After finishing as a district runner-up as an eighth-grader, Evanichko did not go out for wrestling as a freshman. He concentrated on bulking up for football.
"When I was a freshman I was a smaller guy, about 170 pounds," said Evanichko, who started on the defensive line last fall.
"I wanted to get bigger, especially for football, so I spent time in the weight room getting bigger. I planned to come out for wrestling in my sophomore year.
"Like in football, you have to stay low (in wrestling) and you have to have a mean streak. You have to make the right moves, and it also helps with my discipline."
The Greyhounds began the inaugural state team tournament Jan. 23 against Westland. Grove City was seeded fourth and Westland was fifth in Division I, Region 6-A.
The winner competes Wednesday, Jan. 30, against top-seeded Davidson or eighth-seeded Groveport at a site to be determined. That winner will meet second-seeded Upper Arlington, third-seeded Columbus West, sixth-seeded Central Crossing or seventh-seeded Franklin Heights in a regional semifinal, also on Jan. 30.
The winner advances to a regional final Feb. 6.
"Chandler has become a newly appointed team captain," said DiMasso, whose team defeated Groveport 52-16 and Reynoldsburg 50-27 on Jan. 17 to improve to 3-2 in OCC-Ohio Division matches. "He's been a great leader as a junior and I believe leadership is bred from success. He is doing more than the average kid to get better and it shows with his performance."
Comets fall to 1-3 in league duals
Central Crossing finished 16th (56) in the Maumee Bay Classic. Junior Josh Wimer won the 120 title with an 11-10 decision over Kyle Keller of Delta, and senior Kyle Farris was fourth at 145.
The Comets were 1-3 in OCC-Central duals after losing to Davidson 44-17 and Marysville 52-18 on Jan. 17. They defeated Dublin Coffman 44-17 and lost to Olentangy Liberty 55-20 on Jan. 10.