The earlier than expected ending of his sophomore season was a disappointment for Worthington Kilbourne senior wrestler Jay Thompson, as he failed to qualify for the Division I district tournament after making it as a freshman.
Part of it came down to how he viewed the sport, he said. When he started wrestling in sixth grade, Thompson would overwhelm opponents with his size and strength.
But now in the middle of his high school career, his opponents were catching up to him. It was an epiphany for Thompson.
"I realized, 'Oh, I need to work. I can't just get off on athleticism and talent,' " he said.
"I was always a big strong kid. And in middle school you get away with it. And then you get to high school and get slaughtered."
As a result, Thompson said he started training harder, went out and found training partners and maintained a better attitude in practice.
The extra work paid off his junior year, when he went 37-9 and qualified for the state tournament, where he went 0-2 at 220 pounds.
Entering the latter stages of his senior year, Thompson is looking like a serious contender for postseason success. He's 30-4 at 220 with first-place finishes in the SWOWCA Coaches Classic on Dec. 21 and 22 at Harrison and the Top Gun Tournament on Jan. 17 and 18 at Alliance.
Thompson said winning at Top Gun was one of his most memorable moments as a wrestler so far.
"That was one of my goals for a long time," he said. "I remember going into freshman year, I wrote down eight goals I wanted to accomplish in high school, and winning Top Gun was one of them. To check that one off the list was huge."
Coach Jose Martinez hopes Thompson can earn a spot on the podium at state by finishing in the top eight.
"This year he's been doing fairly well," Martinez said. "He's been a good worker. He's been coachable. I'm hoping he'll place this year."
With the postseason approaching, Thompson said there are aspects of his technique he intends to polish -- the details of which he won't disclose to prevent potential opponents from gaining valuable information.
"I need to polish up some moves," he said. "I've been developing three or four go-to moves, and so just polishing those up, making sure those are crisp going into the postseason, that'll be important."
The Wolves begin the postseason with a sectional Feb. 29 at Marysville.
Once the postseason begins, Thompson will make a final push to accomplish his ultimate goal of becoming a state champion.
"I would like to be on top of the state podium. That's what I've wanted since I started wrestling," he said. "One of the things I said when I stepped on the mat is, 'I want to be a champion.' "
However the remainder of the season shakes out for Thompson, he will continue his wrestling career at the University of Indianapolis. College wrestling doesn't have a 220-pound weight class, so he plans to wrestle in the 285-pound class at 235 pounds.
"I'll be hitting the weight room and training pretty hard," he said.
He also has some advice for the Kilbourne underclassmen and future Wolves wrestlers: Don't take anything for granted.
"Fight and don't get arrogant when you win," he said. "I learned that the hard way."
Boys team aims to be 'more mentally tough'
Boys basketball coach Tom Souder is looking for his team to develop more mental toughness as it heads toward the postseason.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 9.
"We've been a little up and down lately," Souder said. "The thing we've got to do is we've got to be more mentally tough when we hit the tough parts of the game."
Before playing Delaware on Feb. 4, the Wolves were 9-8 overall and 4-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Souder said the Wolves were shooting well and weren't turning the ball over during a five-game winning streak in which they beat Pittsburgh Shaler 75-56 on Dec. 27, Bethel Park (Pennsylvania) 89-87 on Dec. 28, Dublin Scioto 56-45 on Jan. 3, Teays Valley 71-47 on Jan. 4 and Olentangy Berlin 44-34 on Jan. 7.
The Wolves then lost the next three, falling 66-35 to Thomas on Jan. 10, 57-48 to Dublin Jerome on Jan. 17 and 49-29 to Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 21.
Souder said against Thomas and Bradley, the Wolves turned the ball over about five times above their per-game average.
"They kind of force you to do some things if you let them speed you up mentally," he said.
Souder said the Wolves will be working to clean up the mental mistakes.
"I think the guys know what's in front (of them) and I think they're excited," he said.
Through 16 games, Ian Schupp was averaging a team-best 15.8 points, followed by Ayden Parsons at 11.3 points.
Boys bowling team wins OCC title
The boys bowling team won the OCC-Cardinal title with a 2,043-1,722 victory over Thomas on Jan. 31 at Capri Lanes.
The Wolves finished 6-1 in the league. They were 9-7 overall before facing Big Walnut on Feb. 4.
"I'm absolutely over the moon with the boys winning the OCC-Cardinal title. Couldn't be happier," coach Susan Bond said. "I think this team is such a cohesive team. These boys cheer each other on and are so great together on the lanes. They support each other, and it was a total team effort."
Junior Cole Niemantsverdriet led the way against Thomas with a 377 two-game series, followed by senior Kerim Pintol with a 370.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 7 -- At Olentangy Berlin. The Wolves defeated the Bears 44-34 on Jan. 7.
Feb. 11 -- At Marysville
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Berlin. The Wolves defeated the Bears 48-40 on Jan. 7.
Feb. 17 -- Home vs. 26th-seeded Eastmoor Academy in first round of Division I district tournament. The Wolves are seeded 13th.
Feb. 6 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at home
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Thomas. Winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.
Feb. 8 -- Fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome in Division I, Region 5 team dual tournament at Marysville. Winner faces fourth-seeded Watkins Memorial or 13th-seeded Newark in quarterfinal. Semifinals and final will be later that day. Regional champion advances to state Feb. 16 at Ohio State. The Wolves are seeded 12th.
*Feb. 13 -- At Thomas