Strong mental focus key for Junior Olympians
Jake Adkins knows wrestling tournaments can be nerve-racking.
The Northridge High School junior has advanced to two consecutive Division III state tournaments, placing eighth at 106 pounds last season. But Adkins said that three-day event doesn't hold a candle to the AAU Junior Olympics, in which he went 13-5 at 106 from July 29-Aug. 2 at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
"You have to have a strong mental attitude going into something like that," said Adkins, who earned a copper medal for finishing fourth in his weight class.
"You have to suck it up when you're tired. It's wrestling pretty much all day, every day for five days. You learn a lot about pushing past your limits."
Adkins had the most wins of 25 central Ohio wrestlers who competed last week across five teams. He, Pickerington Central senior Aaron Yarger, Delaware sophomore Chris Martinez and Westerville North senior Santino DiSabato combined for 46 wins to lead Ohio Gray to a sixth-place finish as 22 teams competed.
The first three days consisted of preliminary competition, then teams were seeded for two days in a pool-play format.
Ohio Gray lost to Michigan Red 40-24 in the fifth-place match Aug. 2. Yarger was 12-4, Martinez was 11-5 and DiSabato was 10-8. DiSabato was seventh at 113 in the Division I state tournament in March.
Reynoldsburg's James Love had the area's best record, going 12-1 at 182 for Ohio Black.
Led by Olentangy's Nate Hall (9-5), Pickerington Central's Joseph Terry (8-6) and Delaware's Colton Richard (7-7), Ohio Scarlet was eighth.
Nick Nader of Gahanna was 12-4 and Shawn Johnson of Delaware was 10-7 for Ohio White.
Ohio White was 15th, followed by Ohio Black (20th) and Ohio Blue (22nd).
Sixty-seven athletes from Ohio were split into seven teams, two of which -- Ohio South and Ohio Catalyst -- had no one from the area.
Pickerington Central coach Jason Allen, who has been involved with AAU wrestling for 13 years, believes its importance lies in its freestyle nature as opposed to the folk-style wrestled in high school.
"The guys were a little skeptical at first, but once they got used to the style, they had quite a bit of success," said Allen, who along with area coaches Jared Ball (Reynoldsburg), Kyle Bentley (Gahanna) and Mark Rieman (Delaware) began publicizing the Junior Olympics in April. "There's a lot less mat wrestling and more points put on the board very quickly because you're given exposure points. You put a guy on his back and roll through him, that's two points. And if you're pushed out (of bounds), that's a point against you.
"Basically, we tell the guys not to play the edge of the mat. Just stay in the center and you'll be fine."
Allen won't have to recruit Adkins for the 2014 Junior Olympics.
"I'd like to go again," Adkins said. "You get so much out of it that can translate into the school year. And it's just that much more experience you bring to the mat."