JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown wrestler Chris Block, whose undefeated regular season culminated in a fifth-place finish at the Division III State Tournament earlier this month, has been selected as the Mount Vernon News Area Wrestler of the Year. His coach, Brad Todd, was named Mount Vernon News Area Wrestling Coach of the Year following a stellar season where high expectations were exceeded.
“Chris is very deserving of the award,” said Todd. “Over the last four or five years, he has put in a tremendous amount of work, doing everything extra that — as it turned out — he needed to do. He did lots of summer camps and lots of summer wrestling. It’s good to see it pay off.”
Block led a powerful Johnstown team into the postseason and, along with teammate Keith Tanner, was one of two Johnnies to stand on the podium at the season’s end. Finishing seventh in the state as a junior, the 140-pound Block was determined to stand even higher this year.
“Really fifth, sixth and higher are the places that you want,” said Block. “Standing at the bottom of the podium just drove me. I just saw all those guys ahead of me.”
For Block, being the best wasn’t good enough. His goal was to be undefeated and he started working toward that goal as soon as his sophomore season ended.
“This year, I was more aggressive,” said Block. “I worked all summer to stay aggressive and be more swift with my moves. I got two or three moves together at once so I could be more effective. Takedowns can win matches, but you have to get out and hold people down. So, I worked on those.”
Of course, to stay at the top of any sport requires total dedication. Block’s wrestling season never really ends.
“After last year, I took two or three days off,” said Block. “Then, I got right back on the mat. I joined three clubs and probably got 150 matches easily.”
Block spent the offseason working with Mount Gilead’s coaches and also with Sergei Kitaev, the Russian Olympic coach. He has also worked with coaches from Bishop Hartley, Licking Heights, Westerville North and Marion Pleasant among others. His 56-2 record, including 52-0 during the regular season, is a testament to all the hard work and support through the year.
“This year, everything just came together like I wanted it to,” said Block. “I want to thank coach Todd and our coaching staff as well as my teammates and my family. I want to thank the team for pushing me. Without them, I would not have made fifth place.”
Next month, it’s off to the Senior Nationals for Block. In June, he will begin basic training for the Army National Guard. While he is still weighing his choice of college, he has definite plans for the future — on the mat and off.
“I’m keeping my options open as far as college, right now,” said Block. “I am going to major in nursing. There’s always a job for a male nurse.”
Todd gives much of the credit for the Johnnies’ success to the leadership of his seniors.
“Anytime you get that much experience, you are expecting a good year,” said Todd. “They stayed focused throughout the year. I kept everything the same and focused on the basics. If you perfect the basics, good things happen. We also had some young guys that we had to bring along. We really drilled them to get the basics right.”
Todd kept his boys on track as they entered the postseason as well.
“That is what we worked so hard for all year,” said Todd. “I said, ‘Everything that has happened up to this point doesn’t matter. This is the second half of the season and that’s all that matters.’ I’ve seen kids with losing records make it to the state tournament. I’ve seen kids that were undefeated lose in the sectionals so I told them, ‘Take nothing for granted. Take it one match at a time.’”
That philosophy paid off handsomely on the season’s final day.
“It’s hard enough to get one guy on the podium (at state),” said Todd. “We went with two and we got two in there. It definitely felt good to get them both on the podium at the end of the day.”