Athletes don't often admit fear. Pat Elflein of the Pickerington High School North wrestling team did so - but with a caveat.
Athletes don't often admit fear.
Pat Elflein of the Pickerington High School North wrestling team did so - but with a caveat - after winning the heavyweight championship in the Division I district tournament Feb. 25 at Hilliard Darby.
"I haven't lost this year and I guess I'm afraid to lose," said Elflein, a senior who defeated Olentangy Liberty's Bryan Young 6-3 in the final to improve to 32-0. "I don't like that mentality, but that's the way it is. I consider my opponents as trying to come in and steal my (undefeated season). That's the way I approach it, anyway."
Elflein, an Ohio State football recruit, again will put perfection on the line during his second consecutive state tournament appearance Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, at Ohio State. He went 1-2 at state and 32-8 overall last year, losing his first-round match in overtime to eventual third-place finisher Nate Hoff of Solon.
At district, Elflein defeated Teays Valley's Jamie Sharp 16-1, pinned Olentangy Orange's Yun Kang in 1 minute, 31 seconds and beat Olentangy Liberty's Luke Fleming 3-1 in a semifinal.
"I've been working really hard," Elflein said. "Coming up in the summer, I'll be doing two-a-days at Ohio State. Having that in front of me is giving me the motivation to work so hard. It's been lifting in the morning, practicing after school, getting after it and working hard."
Elflein will be joined at state by junior Payton Gutierrez, who finished fourth in the 106-pound class, and senior Matt Kitchen, who was fourth at 195.
North scored 67.5 points to finish 11th behind champion Marysville (174). The top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced.
Gutierrez, who is 39-4, was pinned in 5:27 by Marysville's Taleb Rahmani in a semifinal and lost 3-0 to Central Crossing's Josh Wimer in the third-place match.
Kitchen trailed his consolation semifinal 5-3 against Liberty's Myles Robinson with 20 seconds left, but a reversal helped earn him five late points and his first state berth in his first district tournament.
Kitchen, who is 32-10, lost the third-place match 9-0 to Marysville's Thomas Taylor.
"Pretty much the same thing happened to me earlier in the year in a match," Kitchen said of his match against Robinson. "There were seven seconds left and I just switched and put the guy on his back. That's one of my favorite moves. If I use it, it's always at the end. I felt like he thought he had it won, so I just went through and took him to his back because he wasn't really expecting it.
"This weekend has probably been the most nervous I've been for a tournament in my life. Making it out makes every bit of work I've done worth it."
North's other five district qualifiers did not advance. Max Orr went 2-2 at 113, Josh Snyder (120), Nick Notestine (132) and Cody Notestine (138) all went 1-2 and P.J. Cleary was 0-2 at 182.
"I'm a little bit more disappointed (about the team) É but as for Elflein and Payton, I'm very happy for them," Kitchen said. "We'll represent the best we can (this) weekend."
•J.J. Chowoe's second-place finish at 195 led three Central wrestlers who earned state berths.
Chowoe, a senior, lost to Worthington Kilbourne's Mike Mayberry 8-1 in the final. He clinched his first state appearance by defeating Kitchen 7-4 in a semifinal and is 28-5 for the season.
Chowoe admitted he has little idea what this week will be like.
"My coach (Jason Allen) knows how to get me ready because he's had a lot of experience coaching good wrestlers," Chowoe said. "I'm just putting my trust in him and I know I'll be ready."
Junior Ason Sunkle finished fourth at 145 and senior Ryan Schmeltzer was fourth at 220 for the Tigers, who finished seventh with 75 points.
Sunkle lost in the first round, 11-9 to Dublin Jerome's Jack Austin, and won four consecutive consolation matches before losing 13-6 to Teays Valley's Travis Luft in the third-place match.
Schmeltzer upset Marysville sectional winner Brett Mowery of Dublin Jerome 7-4 in his first match, but Mowery returned the favor with a 3-1 win in triple overtime in the third-place match.
"With him being a sectional champion and me being a No. 4 seed, he was 34-3, so that's a ton of confidence there that I got by beating him," Schmeltzer said.
Sophomore Aaron Yarger went 2-3 at 132 and placed sixth.
Among Central's other district qualifiers, Tyler Hogue (113), Garrett Foster (182) and Nick Wilson (heavyweight) all went 2-2, A.J. Bondurant was 1-2 at 152 and Jordan Pieczynski (138), James Pearson (160) and Weston Hunter (170) all went 0-2.