A championship is never just given to an athlete.

It is earned.

St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Mike Rix won an OHSAA Division II state wrestling individual championship as a sophomore at 103 pounds. Rix placed fourth as a freshman at 103 and fourth as a junior at 120.

He hopes to stand on the top spot of the podium at 126 pounds in Division II in Columbus on March 2 as a two-time champion.

“I think my chances are great,” Rix said after practice Tuesday. “It stunk really bad to finish fourth. I wasn’t happy. I gotta do it this year.”

Rix, 18, is 21-1 this season and a member of a Fighting Irish team that has reached the Division II regional semi­finals in the first year of the OHSAA team tournament.

“Mike had a pretty storied youth, junior-high wrestling career,” St. V-M coach Anthony Gary said. “I think he wrestled probably about 1,000 matches, maybe even more than that traveling all around the country and competing in some of the biggest tournaments in the country.”

Experiences such as that prepared Rix for high school. He said he started wrestling at age 6 in first grade. He has a 118-30 overall record in high school.

“I got to meet Mike when he was in eight grade and work out with him some,” Gary said. “He was a shy and kind of quiet kid. He didn’t say much. In terms of being coach and getting a kid to perform well in a sport like wrestling, there has to be that relationship befriending each other. There has to be trust and respect. It took a little while the first year because he didn’t talk a whole lot, but as the season progressed he started to come out of his shell a little bit more and he had a lot of success on the mat in terms of placing fourth.”

Gary said his role as “utility man” at St. V-M has helped him and Rix develop a bond. Gary serves as strength and conditioning coach, wrestling coach, a study hall instructor and a lunch room monitor at the school.

“His sophomore year was another big jump,” Gary said. “We were buddies, he would listen and respect everything. That showed in his wrestling, and he really blossomed by being a state champ at 103. Then last year, he had a tough weight class, but the relationship between the coach and athlete has continued.

“Now, I am in the school and he comes to my study halls. We have a very good relationship, that doesn’t just involve wrestling. We keep track of his academics and are working on the next level, in terms of college attention and a college scholarship.”

Rix, a 5-foot-6 resident of Munroe Falls, said he is garnering college interest from North Carolina State, Ohio, Kent State and Findlay. He has 2.8 grade-point average and plans to major in business in college.

“Mike is solid on his feet, and he is able to take people down,” Gary said. “He is able to be defensive, in terms of preventing getting scored on, on his feet. On the mat, he is probably one of the best I have coached in a while in terms of being able to control kids on top and basically work them into submission and score back points.

“On bottom, he works hard. If he didn’t work hard, he wouldn’t have won a state title his sophomore year. He had to score an escape to score a point to win a match. He stayed diligent, and he stayed after it.”

Winning the state title as a sophomore was Rix’s shining moment, one he aspires to duplicate as a senior.

“That was the best thing that I have ever done,” Rix said. “I was able to accomplish it by working hard, and I am continuing to work hard.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.