COLUMBUS: Perry senior JoJo Tayse likes the target on his back.
A defending state champion in Division I at 195 pounds, Tayse knows everyone’s trying to unseat the champ. Friday night at the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament, he took another step forward to succeeding in his title defense by beating Austin Pfarr of Marysville by a 6-3 decision in a semifinal match.
“A lot of guys are coming at me harder,” Tayse said. “That’s how I’ve felt most of the year. I like it now. It makes you feel like you have to overcome more than I have, [it’s] more adversity than last year.”
Tayse (45-7) is overcoming more than just his competition. He took second at the district tournament after injuring both of his kneecaps in the first period of that title bout. The injury lingering, he wrestled with braces Thursday night in the quarterfinals and switched to knee pads for the semifinals. He says it’s still bothering him but won’t be much of an issue in the state title bout.
Tayse gets a second chance against Kyle Conel of Ashtabula Lakeside, the same wrestler he had to forfeit against just a few weeks ago.
He says he’s learned to tame the excitement that comes with wrestling in the state tournament.
“It’s not as bad as it was last year,” he said. “Last year, the height of the moment got to me at first and I realized I had to get back down. … I’ll most likely be sleeping most of the day [today], staying focused.”
Tayse will be joined in the championship final bout by sophomore 106-pounder Jose Rodriguez, who beat Brunswick’s Josh Heil 4-2.
Rodriguez (41-2) grabbed a lead and was able to stave off a late attack by Heil.
At the Ironman Tournament earlier in the year, Rodriguez took second after giving up a takedown in the closing moments. Since then, he’s learned to keep the energy up in the third period. It helped him Friday night.
“I have a bad habit in the third period,” he said. “I seem to relax. Anytime the third period comes around, my coaches start yelling that it’s the third period. So the match just started, it’s fresh and I wrestle the whole two minutes.”
Perry junior David Bavery, last year’s Division I state champion at 120 pounds, lost to Olentangy Orange’s Artem Imchenko. Highland senior Adam Kluk injured his ankle after the second period of his bout against Conel, and gave up a takedown within the final 10 seconds of the third period.
“It was always within reach, it really was,” Highland coach Paul Casey said. “From here, he has to try to gather himself back together and get out there on the mat tomorrow, which is a hard thing to do. … It’s a lot to bring it back together, but he has a lot of character.”
Brunswick senior Tyler Hughes won his state semifinal bout by 5-4 decision at 170 pounds. GlenOak senior Corey Siegfried defeated Toledo Whitmer’s Marquise Moore 2-1.
Six area wrestlers advanced to the state title bouts in Division III. Four of them — J.J. Diven (49-0) of Waterloo, Sam Groff (56-0) of Sandy Valley, Kollin Moore (55-0) of Norwayne and Zack Nelson (57-0) of Waynedale — all enter the final match of the season undefeated. Rootstown’s Jake Moore and Travis Linton also advanced, and hold records of 39-3 and 43-3, respectively
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.