Big Walnut Roundup: Golden Eagles' Micah Tillar eagerly takes plunge into wrestling

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Junior Micah Tillar is in his first season wrestling for Big Walnut. He started out 9-9 at 160 pounds, which coach Aaron Renner said "is pretty impressive for a first-year wrestler in that weight class."

Occasionally, Big Walnut junior Micah Tillar arrives late to wrestling practice with wet hair.

His excuse is legitimate. With little time to spare, Tillar has about 30 minutes to get from diving workouts to the Golden Eagles’ wrestling room, where he is a first-year competitor.

While some student-athletes choose to focus on one sport year-round in hopes of improving their chances to play in college, others, like Tillar, do the opposite and compete in multiple sports. Tillar has the added wrinkle of competing in two sports in the same season.

“Personally, I’ve always wanted to try a physical sport that’s hands-on,” said Tillar, who also was a starting midfielder for the boys soccer team last fall.

The decision to join the wrestling team was welcomed by coach Aaron Renner, who quickly noticed Tillar’s athletic abilities and put him in the lineup at 160 pounds.

Tillar was 9-9 after Big Walnut went 4-0 in the Madison Plains dual tournament Jan. 16, defeating Madison Plains 75-0, Amanda-Clearcreek 51-26, Chillicothe Zane Trace 51-21 and Upper Arlington’s B team 60-19.

At the tournament, Tillar was 3-1 while teammates Andrew Parker (113), Vince Giordano (126), Lawrence O’Malley (152), Wyatt Lenz (182) and Avery Looney (heavyweight) went undefeated.

“That (overall) record is pretty impressive for a first-year wrestler in that weight class,” Renner said. “He’s definitely a well-put-together athlete, but in wrestling, technique is huge. For somebody who started off the season and legitimately didn’t know anything about wrestling, he’s just progressed, and he continues to work hard at it every day.”

Tillar has another coach, his grandfather Greg Tillar, who was a standout high school wrestler and urged his grandson to give the sport a try.

While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic prevents his grandfather from attending matches in person, Tillar sends videos and the two chat by phone or FaceTime about what happened after every competition.

“For example, I like to come out and work ‘snap downs,’ and he said, ‘Well, that’s good because you’re strong,’ ” Tillar said. “He’s always going off of what I’m saying, and he says I’m learning fast. He loves asking questions and observing.”

Tillar, who is home-schooled and permitted by OHSAA rules to compete for Big Walnut, also credits teammates Giordano, O’Malley, Christian Takatch (220) and Collin Gamble (195) as “another big reason why I’ve progressed this season. Everyone is so positive, and in that kind of environment, you can’t not learn.”

But getting back into his peak diving form hasn’t been as easy.

Tillar had little practice time over the summer with pools closed because of coronavirus health precautions and restrictions.

Tillar also competes in diving for the Golden Eagles. He said the lack of practice time during parts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has hindered him from getting back into his peak form.

“Coming into the season, I had all these mental blocks on all these dives that I knew I could do,” he said. “My brain just would not let me. I’ve had to slowly work my way back to where I was, which is so frustrating for me right now.”

Last season, Tillar finished 25th (122.5 points) out of 29 divers in the Division I district meet. He was 14th (296.55) of 32 divers as a freshman.

On the soccer field, Tillar was second-team all-league last fall for the Golden Eagles, who went 10-4-4 and reached a Division I district semifinal.

The three-sport athlete also might be ready to give another sport a try.

A rugby coach who attends Tillar’s church mentioned he was looking for wrestlers to play this summer.

“I was telling my mom about it and she said, ‘I don’t know, you’re juggling so many sports right now,’ ” Tillar said. “Maybe I can go to a few practices to see how I like it.”

Girls team battling 

through quarantine

The girls basketball team earned a much-needed victory over OCC-Capital Division rival Delaware on Jan. 19, and it did so with just seven players available because of coronavirus quarantine protocols.

The 63-56 win over the Pacers ended a three-game losing streak and improved Big Walnut to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing at Westerville South on Jan. 22.

“We could have canceled games if we wanted to, but our girls said they wanted to keep battling,” coach Jason Crawford said. “We did cancel our (Jan. 15) game with Canal Winchester because we only had six players.”

Big Walnut has 23 players in the program.

Abby Brown led the way with 27 points against Delaware, and Annie Thomas scored 17.

Avery Maxeiner, who Crawford said has been playing with a sore ankle, scored nine points.

Players who needed to quarantine were expected to return Jan. 25, Crawford said. In addition, Mel Sena has been out with an injury.

Boys basketball team 

splits league contests

The boys basketball team moved to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Capital with a 59-44 victory over visiting Canal Winchester on Jan. 15 and a 39-38 loss at Delaware on Jan. 19.

Caleb Conard finished with a season-high 21 points and 13 rebounds against Canal Winchester. 

Big Walnut outscored the Indians 17-6 in the second quarter.

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