MOUNT VERNON — A trio of 130-pounders from this area are ready to make their mark at the 2010 OHSAA Wrestling Championships, which will be held at Value City Arena in Columbus today, Friday and Saturday.
Leading the way is Highland’s Mike Shepard (41-5). Making his fourth trip to the state, Shepard wants to stand on the podium as All-Ohio in Division II after being denied for three years.
“I wanted to go undefeated, but I lost early in the year,” said Shepard. “I also wanted to get to the state for my fourth year and I definitely want to place. I want to place top six.”
Shepard was wrestling at 135 for the first three-quarters of the year before dropping down to 130.
“I’m really ready to place this year,” said Shepard. “In my freshman and sophomore years, I walked out of the tunnel and I saw the crowd going crazy, There’s a lot of people. It’s huge when you’re going out there. Now, I handle it better.”
Destiny’s darling in 2010 is definitely junior Colin Riley (28-6) of Mount Vernon. Last year, Riley was on the jayvee squad. His meteoric rise to become among the best in the state in Division I came after he and his young team got off to a slow start this season. Riley and the Yellow Jackets matured together.
“Part of the season I missed because I was in soccer and I was in a tournament down in Florida,” said Riley. “That kind of threw me off because, when I got back, we had a (wrestling) tournament and I hadn’t practiced that much. I had to pick it up and, eventually, I did better.”
Riley will have to contend with the distractions that go with being at state for the first time.
“I’m actually a bit nervous because it’s my first time going,” said Riley. “I don’t know how I’m going to do. I just hope I do good.”
Riley is also getting some help from a pair of former Mount Vernon wrestlers, who made it to state last year.
“Brent Kramp and Matt Belcher are saying go as hard as you can,” said Riley. “Believe in yourself.”
It was Utica’s senior Dylan Wheeler (38-2), who surprised a few last year by getting to state. This year, he may be one of the top people to beat at 130 pounds in Division III. He is more relaxed as he awaits this year’s tournament.
“This is my last year,” said Wheeler. “I went to state last year, so I know what everything looks like. When you first go there, obviously, you’re intimidated because it’s so big and there’s so many mats out there. It’s kind of a shock to look up and see tons and tons of people. A tournament in a high school gym doesn’t even compare. Since I’ve already been there, that give’s me a little bit of an edge. Now, I’m not so starstruck when I go out there. I can just focus on winning and getting to the next round.”
Wheeler got a taste of state last year. This year, he wants a piece of the podium.
“I knew that I wanted this season to be one of my better seasons,” said Wheeler, who spent the fall on the cross country team. “I put in a lot of work this summer in the weight room, as well as running and getting my body in shape and making sure that my weight was where I wanted it to be.”
Wheeler took extra practice and worked extremely hard all season.
“I went to Randy Simpson’s (attack system) camp (in Reynoldsburg) because I wanted to put in that extra effort to get this far. This is my senior year and I don’t have another year to find out what to do and say, ‘I can make it next year.’ I just tried to prepare myself physically and mentally so I could make the state tournament. I worked with Lou Roselli (Ohio State assistant wrestling coach) this summer in a seven-day intensive camp. I learned a lot of different moves with him.”
Wheeler is a regular in the weight room, where he says he has gained his greatest benefit.
“If you don’t have the strength to pull off the good moves, you’ll never be able to hit them against a good kid,” said Wheeler. “Luckily, I got myself into better shape this year and I feel way better.”
Wheeler is the complete package. It’s not just strength, speed and skill with Wheeler. He exudes confidence, a sense of humor and a very polished image.
“I just got back from tanning,” said Wheeler. “My mom said she was tired of looking at my light chicken legs. That’s how that went down. It helps with skin diseases like ringworm, too. There are guys who have ringworm on their back, on their chest and on their face and I wouldn’t get anything.”