When Tim Churchill signed up to compete for the Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling team for the first time as a senior, he had a few preconceived notions about the sport running through his mind.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder knew competing at heavyweight was going to be a challenge, but he was confident he would be able to win simply by overpowering opponents.
It didn't take long before the Australian-born Churchill, who has won just one of his first five matches, discovered the importance of skill and strategy.
"I thought I was going to be able to get away with being a brute and throwing people around, so I was surprised by how technical wrestling is and how smart you have to be to win matches," Churchill said. "I've been stronger than each of my opponents so far, but I'm still learning the technique of the sport and that's cost me in most of my matches. I'll use my strength to do something that I think is advantageous and end up on my back."
After opening the season with four consecutive losses, Churchill earned his first victory in a dual against Thomas Worthington on Jan. 16, pinning Liam Buchy in the second period.
"Like I said, I don't have a lot of technique, but the bloke gave me his legs and I was able to get a double-leg takedown," Churchill said. "Once I'm on the ground, I really don't know what I'm doing, but after I got him on his back, I was able to improvise and get the pin."
Considering that Churchill didn't begin wrestling until November and missed almost a month of the season while visiting family in Australia, coach Mark Marinelli said he is progressing quickly.
Churchill's win over Buchy earned six crucial points for the Patriots, who defeated the Cardinals 37-34 to improve to 4-0 in the OCC-Central Division.
"Tim's the only legitimate heavyweight we have and he's one of the strongest kids in our school, so we're really glad that he's part of our team," Marinelli said. "He's quicker than most heavyweights and he's powerful and explosive. He can lift guys very easily, even really big heavyweights. He's been in contention to win all of his matches. He just doesn't know what to do when he's got his opponents in vulnerable positions. But he's improving and he's not intimidated to take on more experienced wrestlers. I'm confident he's going to win more matches as he continues to learn and get better."
Churchill said he enjoys the physical nature of wrestling after playing rugby for several years.
After being raised in Sydney, Australia, Churchill moved to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, when he was 12.
He played forward for the Philippine National Under-16, U-18 and U-20 rugby teams before his family moved to central Ohio last spring.
After arriving in Columbus, Churchill joined the Ohio State University Rugby Football Club.
"Rugby isn't as physical here or in the Philippines as it is in Australia, but I still really enjoy the game," he said. "Rugby is the most aggressive and brutal sport I've ever played. Wrestling is in a controlled setting, but in rugby, you can catch an elbow or a cleat in the face because there are so many people on the field that it's hard to watch everyone.
"I've been knocked out twice and had my fingers broken many times. There are a lot of fights in rugby, too, but I'm a little rough around the edges and I enjoy the aggressive nature of the sport."
Churchill is applying to several Ivy League schools. He hopes to play rugby in college and plans to study medicine.
In the meantime, he's having fun wrestling for the Patriots.
"I'm still not very good at wrestling, but I love the sport and the physicality of it," he said. "I may get walloped a few times, but I'm enjoying being a part of this team and doing what I can to help our team do well.
"I've learned a lot about improving my balance and I'm really excited to take what I've learned from wrestling and apply it to hopefully make me a better rugby player in the spring."
Pioneers win two more league duals
Orange won two OCC-Capital duals Jan. 16, beating Worthington Kilbourne 38-33 and Franklin Heights 83-0 to improve to 4-1 in the league.
Going 2-0 for the Pioneers were David Schrader (120), Michael Hines (132), Hayden Heilshorn (138), Logan Broskie (145), Lenn's Kamba (195), Nick Lee (220) and Albert Van Fossen (heavyweight).
Braves split league matches
Olentangy went 1-1 in OCC-Capital duals Jan. 16, beating New Albany 67-10 and losing to Delaware 46-18 to move to 3-1 in the league.
Going 2-0 for the Braves were Brayden Held (120), Max Hall (138), Cody Pollitt (160), Nate Hall (182) and Chris Crumb (heavyweight).