Jared Drake of the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team has less technique and experience than the majority of his opponents after taking a seven-year break from the sport.

Jared Drake of the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team has less technique and experience than the majority of his opponents after taking a seven-year break from the sport.

Nevertheless, those shortcomings haven't prevented the sophomore from winning 17 of his first 24 matches at 195 pounds in his first wrestling season since he was in third grade.

"I didn't go into this season with any expectations, other than to do my best, because I hadn't wrestled in seven years and I didn't know what I was getting myself into," Drake said. "My coaches say that I have an unorthodox style because I didn't have any technique at all the first couple of weeks and I was just muscling my way through matches. Even now, I'm still developing my technique, so they never know what to expect."

Coach Matt Stout said Drake's work ethic has enabled him to improve his technique quickly and his athleticism has given him an advantage in the majority of his matches.

"Jared's a phenomenal athlete who works his butt off to get better every day," Stout said. "I'd rate his technique at a 5 out of 10, which is good considering that he didn't start working with us until Dec. 1. But Jared mostly has been successful because of his athleticism. He's very quick and strong, and he has a lot of heart. When we run sprints at the end of practice, Jared's the first to finish."

Drake wrestled for Stout in the Upper Arlington Mat Cubs Youth Wrestling Program as a second- and third-grader before giving up the sport in favor of competing in football, hockey and lacrosse.

But Drake lifted weights instead of playing hockey during the winter of his freshman year, and after starting for the Golden Bears' varsity football team last fall at outside linebacker and leading the team in tackles, he surprised nearly everyone by showing up to wrestling practice Dec. 1.

Two days later, Drake went 3-1 and placed third at 195 in the Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational.

"Coach Stout has been picking at me to come back to wrestling ever since I dropped it, and it was something in the back of my mind for a long time," he said. "I quit playing hockey because I knew I wasn't going to play it in college and I wanted to focus more on football and lacrosse. I was lifting weights five times a week and getting stronger between seasons, but I wasn't getting in better shape, so I went out to wrestling practice as a way of staying in shape and I fell in love with the sport."

Drake has fared well in tournaments, going 5-1 and placing third in the Ready Winter Classic on Dec. 28 and 29 and placing fourth in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial on Jan. 7 at Dublin Scioto.

He credits the coaching staff, particularly Stout and assistant coach Steve Luke, for helping him improve at a rapid pace.

Luke was a three-time Big Ten Conference champion and All-American at the University of Michigan who went undefeated and won the Division I NCAA title at 174 pounds in 2009.

"I've learned so much from coach Stout, and he's the biggest reason I've come back to wrestling," Drake said. "I try to go one-on-one with Steve Luke as much as possible because he pushes me to be better. He's obviously better than me, but I try to put up a fight every time I wrestle him."

In a dual match against Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 12, Drake rallied to beat Clay Barnett 10-9 after scoring a last-second takedown. In the first period, Barnett accidentally head-butted Drake in the face, causing Drake's right eye to swell shut.

"That was my favorite match of the season because it was so physical and I had to push myself to find a way to win," Drake said. "I was the backup quarterback on varsity this year and I'm going to concentrate more on playing quarterback in the future, but I'm different than a lot of quarterbacks in that I'm aggressive and physical. I'm a hard-nosed athlete who likes to take and give hits."

Drake hopes to follow in the footsteps of family members by playing either football or lacrosse in college.

His grandfather, Phil Drake, was a member of Ohio State's 1942 national championship football team and his older sister, Lauren, is a senior at UA who has signed to play lacrosse at Oregon.

Drake also has two cousins who graduated from UA and went on to play lacrosse in college in Ben Drake (Ohio State) and Alex Drake (Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.).

"People ask me every day whether I want to play football or lacrosse in college and I tell them that I'm going to do the best I can in both sports and see what happens," Drake said.

Stout, who placed second at 103 in the Division I state tournament while competing for the Bears in 1989, said Drake has the potential to win a state championship in wrestling.

"Jared has a steep learning curve, but I'll be disappointed if he doesn't go to state this year," he said. "He should be able to place at state next year once he gets another full year of experience under his belt. If he doesn't win a state title before he graduates, we've failed as coaches because he's the best athlete in Upper Arlington's sophomore class."