Wrestling: 'Letting loose' pays off for Pickerington North's Erik Gomez

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
North wrestler Erik Gomez credited his 11-1 start to a changed mental approach for his senior season. "I'm letting loose and just going out there and having fun," said Gomez, who competes at 132 and 138 pounds.

Not only has Erik Gomez become one of Pickerington North’s most successful wrestlers, but coach Derek Oney sees the senior as perhaps the Panthers’ most exciting competitor.

“He’s not flashy. He’s technical but he uses some high-amplitude moves that get people fired up. I don’t think he realizes he does, but he does,” Oney said. “That’s how he practices and competes.”

Gomez smiled at the suggestion but shrugged it off while crediting his success – and any drawing power – to a change in approach.

“I just try to set an example for the younger guys not to give up,” Gomez said. “My mentality is a lot better overall. I wouldn’t say I was scared (in previous years), but I was more careful. This is my last year. I’m letting loose and just going out there and having fun.

“You can’t be afraid to lose. It’s going to happen. You really learn who you are after taking a loss. That’s where you decide you can either stand back and keep holding onto that loss or watch the film, look at what I did wrong and look at what I did right, and just work out from there.”

Gomez was 11-1 before a Jan. 21 OCC-Ohio Division match at Grove City. He started the season at 138 pounds but dropped to 132 beginning with a Jan. 14 match against Westland.

Gomez’s only loss came Dec. 19 in the season-opening Olentangy Berlin Duals to Delta’s Gabe Meyer, who was ranked fifth in the state at 138 last week by BoroFanOhio.net.

“He’s had a lot of success at 138 but he’s just a little short (5-foot-2) for that weight class,” Oney said. “He’s not a powerhouse. He’s a technical wrestler who has a lot of quickness and speed.

“He’s been a kid who’s come to every extra mat (session), every extra practice, every morning lift, anything. He comes from a family who knows what it takes to be good. They probably push him as hard as we do. He’s all in.”

Gomez’s father, Olaf, is a black belt in jiu-jitsu. His mother, Erika, is a bodybuilder.

Freshman Drennen Landenberger, a frequent sparring partner of Gomez, said positioning is Gomez’s strength.

“He’s one of those funky wrestlers who will get into positions not a lot of other wrestlers will get into. I think that’s why he stands out and I know he’s helped make me better,” Landenberger said. “He’s super-fast and when you get in a match with him, it’s tough to beat him. I’ve learned to be more aggressive and work on my positions more because of him. He’s helped me not be afraid of situations.”

Gomez, who had a 52-37 career record before Jan. 21, is eager to place at district and qualify for his first Division I state tournament. He has been a sectional runner-up each of the past two seasons, at 113 as a sophomore and 126 last year, but never has won more than one match at district.

“Everybody I wrestle, they put on their pants one leg at a time, too,” Gomez said. “They’re human, too. Both of us can make mistakes. I just wrestle every match to build myself and keep growing.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave