Upper Arlington Roundup: Golden Bears' Jacob Shanklin, Jake Thomas dominating on mat

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Upper Arlington senior Jacob Shanklin, a returning Division I state qualifier, won his first 21 matches this season while competing at 132 and 138 pounds. He had combined with 120-pound senior Jake Thomas to go 41-1 entering action Jan. 28.

Always one to keep his expectations high, Upper Arlington wrestling coach Matt Stout said seniors Jacob Shanklin and Jake Thomas are “about where I expected them to be” with a combined 41-1 record before Jan. 28.

But with the high-stakes part of the schedule rapidly approaching, all three are leaving the door for improvement open.

“This season has been hard to judge because there are no tournaments, so I know they haven’t faced the competition they would in a normal season,” Stout said. “Certainly (21)-0 (for Shanklin) is great, but we have to continue to get better. He knows that and we don’t want that to be fool’s gold. I want to see better from both of them to reach their goals and so do they.”

Shanklin, a returning Division I state qualifier, was 21-0 at 132 and 138 pounds before a Jan. 28 OCC-Central Division dual against Dublin Coffman. His 113 career wins before that night were eighth-most in program history.

Thomas, a state qualifier as a sophomore, was 20-1 at 120.

Because Shanklin and Thomas are at separate weights and this year practice separately because of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions, they rarely compete against one another. Nonetheless, Stout notices similarities between the two.

“They’re both really tenacious wrestlers. They’re hard to score on,” Stout said, adding that Shanklin improved last year with positioning and fighting for positions, something at which Thomas long has been talented. “Both of them are good on top. They stay in good positions and fight for everything.”

Shanklin went 39-10 as a junior and finished third at 132 in the district tournament to earn an automatic berth at state, which was canceled because of the pandemic. He was a district qualifier at 126 each of the previous two years.

One of Shanklin’s signature wins this season came at 145, against Marysville’s Lincoln Heard – a state qualifier last season – in a quad Jan. 16 at Centerville.

“It doesn’t mean anything until I start wrestling a lot of elite opponents,” Shanklin said. “A big part of it is having (teammate) Larry (Stelzer) back in the wrestling room and pushing me. We practice against each other a lot and that’s been huge. I’ve naturally been good on top. It’s usually something I’m able to work with in a match.”

Thomas was 29-13 as a sophomore and competed as a state alternate, then went 34-10 last year. He said that wrestling at 120 – and not having to cut weight to either of the lower two classes – has been key to his success.

“I feel like I have more energy wrestling at 120. I’d never started off this strong. I’ve been putting in work in the offseason and I knew I was capable of this,” said Thomas, who also credited club coach Collin Palmer, a four-time state champion at Lakewood St. Edward and head coach at DeSales, with helping him on top. “I worked a lot more on taking shots and being more aggressive. I definitely started to work on my top game more. I was definitely a lot more lazy on my feet last year. It’s been a big factor.”

Sam Cannon and Upper Arlington were scheduled to play four games from Feb. 3-7, then get three days off before the start of the Blue Jackets Cup.

Hockey team

adjusts preparation

The hockey team had been ranked eighth in five consecutive state polls entering this week, but the manner in which the Golden Bears prepare for games has had to change because of both a flexible schedule and limited practice time.

UA was 10-9-0-2 overall and 7-3-0-1 in the CHC before playing Dublin Jerome on Jan. 29, but faced a busy stretch to finish the regular season. The Bears were scheduled to play four games from Feb. 3-7, then get three days off before the start of the Blue Jackets Cup, the CHC’s postseason tournament.

The pandemic has forced several games to be moved, whether up or back, because of various teams being forced into quarantine. UA had not been one of them entering last weekend.

“There have been weeks where we’ve only had one practice and had five games. That doesn’t allow us as much time to reflect or even give us an opportunity to work on things we need to work on after we win or lose a close game, to go back, analyze and fix,” coach Hamish Baird said. “The other thing that’s been difficult, and this goes for everybody, is we’re allowed into the rink 15 minutes before we’re on the ice so there’s no opportunity to watch film and talk about Xs and Os beforehand. So we end up using that time to hit a few points we want to see happen during games … and we use practice time to go through those Xs and Os.”

Sprinters leading

girls swim team

Girls swimming coach John Sands hailed the contributions of his entire team throughout the regular season, but said his sprint freestylers have been particularly strong.

Miami University recruit Emma Schueler and Northwestern commit Riley Huddleston have led a group that also includes Avery Catalano, Lydia Muldoon and Caroline Porterfield.

“That had been the case before I got here, but it definitely continues to be so,” said Sands, who is in his first season. “I truly believe we could have four girls make state in the 50-(yard) and 100 free. That’s a big ask of the girls, but it’s a goal. The tricky thing has been figuring out who swims what event on what day, because we have a number of talented girls. 

“All of them have been strong. Avery has been strong in the 100 free and 200 free, too. … Lineup decisions have been a nightmare in the best possible way. It’s difficult, but that’s how I want it to be.”

UA was 7-2 in dual meets before facing Gahanna on Jan. 30 at home. Several swimmers who will not participate in the postseason will take part in the Upper Arlington Invitational on Feb. 6, seven days before the Bears play host to a Division I sectional.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave