Senior Artem Timchenko of the Olentangy Orange High School wrestling team always has admired the athletic abilities of his father, Alexander.

Senior Artem Timchenko of the Olentangy Orange High School wrestling team always has admired the athletic abilities of his father, Alexander.

Alexander Timchenko is a former gymnastics champion for the now-dissolved Soviet Union and a former head coach of one of the Soviet gymnastics training centers in the Ukraine.

He later moved to the United States to work and, after being hired to work as a coach at Buckeye Gymnastics in Westerville 11 year ago, his wife, Svetlana, and son followed him to central Ohio.

Artem Timchenko didn't follow in his father's footsteps by competing in gymnastics, but he is striving to earn his respect by excelling in wrestling.

"My dad's the most inspirational person in my life because he's a great athlete and I don't want to disappoint him," he said. "He didn't want me to do gymnastics because I'm not very flexible, so I decided to try to be the best wrestler I can be.

"My dad always says that gymnasts are better athletes than wrestlers, and he tells me that 8- and 9-year-olds can do workouts that would burn me out, so I want to prove him wrong. I'm motivated to win championships in wrestling to prove that I'm a good athlete, too."

Timchecko is 26-0 so far this season. He won the 126-pound weight class in the Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational on Dec. 1 at Upper Arlington, the Panther Invitational on Dec. 15 at Pickerington North, the Orange Meatgrinder Invitational on Jan. 5 and the Cruiser Invitational on Jan. 26 at Groveport.

He also went 4-0 at 120 in the Brecksville Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 and 29 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights, beating Oregon Clay's Richie Screptock 7-3 in a semifinal before withdrawing with a concussion.

Screptock placed fifth at 126 in the Division I state tournament last year.

"Artem's a workhorse and he's been tearing through people this year," coach Brian Nicola said. "His only close match was against a state placer and he's beat up everyone else pretty good.

"Artem's a very single-minded kid who does well at anything he sets his mind to do. He's a straight-A student and he has the mindset to become a state champion."

Timchenko was raised in a home in the Ukraine that lacked a television and indoor plumbing, and he said those memories continue to motivate him to work hard and make the most of his opportunities.

In addition to practicing with his high school teammates, Timchenko trains with former Soviet wrestler Miron Kharchilava eight hours a week.

"When I was little, we didn't have running water so we had to use an outhouse," Timchenko said. "I remember there was a lot of litter in the streets, with vodka bottles all over the ground.

"It's definitely a lot nicer here, and (coming from another country) has definitely motivated me to do my best because I know how good we have it here."

Timchenko didn't begin wrestling until he was in seventh grade, but he quickly improved to the point where he went 39-9 overall and placed seventh at 112 at state as a freshman at Orange.

After his mother took a job in Massillon, he transferred to Perry for his sophomore season and went 29-9 and placed fifth at 112 at state.

His family moved back to central Ohio the following year and Timchenko returned to Orange, where he started 5-0 at 120 as a junior before being ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for changing school districts for a second time in two years.

Timchenko competed for the Crush Wrestling Club last year and placed fourth at 120 in the USA Wrestling Juniors Folkstyle National Championships last spring in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Despite missing most of his junior season, Timchenko was recruited by several Division I college programs before verbally committing to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

"Not being able to wrestle in the state tournament last year was definitely really depressing, but I had to just keep practicing through it," he said.

"Sitting out last year just motivated me to work harder and I'm glad I was able to get a scholarship, but my next goal is to win a state title. I've been waiting a long time for another chance at winning a state championship and I'm ready to give it my best shot."