COLUMBUS — The roots of Jordan Earnest’s state championship run Saturday took form 70 pounds and two seasons ago.
While grit and determination gave the Wadsworth heavyweight his coveted title at the Division I state wrestling tournament Saturday, the seeds were planted when Grizzlies coach John Gramuglia needed a body in practice to partner with 220-pound starter Clay McComas in the 2015-16 season.
Earnest stepped in and started tossing McComas around, even though he weighed 50 pounds less than his counterpart.
Fast forward to this season and the senior was the unquestionable leader for the Grizzlies.
The journey ended with Earnest riding off into the sunset following a 2-1 victory over Jack Heyob of Cincinnati St. Xavier.
“Last year, after placing fourth at state, I realized I would be the top returning guy,” Earnest said. “Then I realized from there that I would be the one everyone would be gunning for. I had to prove why I was ranked No. 1.”
It started last spring, when Earnest became a national champion by winning the UWW (Fila) Championships at the University of Akron.
It continued over the summer with a trip to Nationals in Fargo, N.D., and it began in sincerity when the season started.
Earnest narrowly lost to the second-ranked wrestler in the nation, Cholton Schultz of Ponderosa, Colo., at the ultra-elite Ironman Tournament in December.
Earnest never faltered again.
“It really started with me wanting to be the heavyweight,” Earnest said. “From there, I started winning, and that’s when I started realizing it was more than just wrestling for the team. I could start looking at the postseason. “
The Ohio University recruit won the next 46 matches to become Wadsworth’s 21st individual champion, including fifth at heavyweight.
“He decided to give his mind, his body and his whole life toward that goal,” Gramuglia said.
At the state tournament, Earnest recorded pins over Avon Lake’s Max Wittman, Marysville’s Tyler Connolly and Amherst’s Matt Lee to reach the final.
Once there, he scored an early takedown on Heyob and held on.
“It definitely was hard because I knew there were people out there who might beat me,” Earnest said. “Seeing other people with their almost-perfect records kept me humble; but having my only loss to the No. 2 kid in the country, that felt big to me.
“That showed me I could wrestle with confidence. I focused in my matches. I wasn’t looking to my next matches. That was huge. This title means everything to be able to carry on that tradition at Wadsworth, where we have an excellent tradition at heavyweight.”
It’s a tradition that includes Medina County career wins leader and three-time state champion Nick Tavanello, two-time champion in Bobby Jones, and Ben Buzzelli, a member of the 2010 state championship team.
“I was thinking about it Friday night,” Earnest said. “Now, I can tell my kids and other kids from Wadsworth later in life what it means and how special it means. Every day I walked into practice, when you first walk in, you see the mural on the wall of past champions. We have a lot of kids on there, but I want kids to see me next year, so they can see how work pays off.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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