While he's certainly pleased with his accomplishments, Woodmore junior Evan Ulinski is hoping that next year is even better.
Ulinski's goals before the season were to win a state title; win a league title; and win 45 matches.
Two out of three ain't bad.
He finished as the Division III state runner-up at 106 pounds, won a Northern Buckeye Conference championship, closed with a 49-4 record, and is a top selection to the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Honor Roll.
|Evan Ulinski (left) weighs up his opponent during a 106 pound match
at the Division III state meet. (Photo courtesy of Woodmore athletic
director Steve Batt)
Ulinski comes from a wrestling family. His father, Steve, is an assistant coach with the Wildcats, and his brother, Jan, is a senior on the University of Findlay wrestling team. Jan, who attended Eastwood, was a two-time state qualifier who finished seventh at 119 pounds in D-II in '06.
“Obviously, I wanted to win the whole thing, but it was a great experience,” Evan said. “I'm proud of how the team and I wrestled all year and I'd like to thank the coaches for their help.”
Ulinski credits the success to his decision to wrestle up a weight class for much of the season — an unorthodox move that proved to be brilliant.
“The better competition really taught me to learn to win close matches,” he said.
Athletic director Steve Barr believes Ulinski's work ethic led to his success during his three years at Woodmore.
“Evan's accomplishment this season, finishing second in the state, is something he should be very proud of and the program should be proud of,” Barr said. “In order for any athlete to reach the pinnacle of their sport, it takes great dedication, a work ethic and a drive and determination that go beyond the 'norm.'
“Evan has exhibited those traits throughout his career, and he is an example of what can be accomplished with hard work. I would expect with another summer of hard work, Evan will have the opportunity to take that final step at the state wrestling meet as a senior next season.”
Ulinski also credits second-year Woodmore wrestling coach Dane Bonnigson, a local Mixed Martial Arts fighter who teaches World History to eighth graders at Woodmore Middle School, with helping to build a strong program and steer the wrestlers in the right direction.
“(The coaches) spend a lot of time teaching techniques and getting us in great condition along with scouting. I think they do a fantastic job. And the team is getting bigger (in numbers), which will make us more competitive next season.”
The wrestling team made a big impact this year in the NBC. Placing high at most of their tournaments and winning some key meets have been a major factor for them having an 8-6 record. The Woodmore wrestling team had five athletes in the championship finals, and two that claimed titles propelling the Wildcats to a third-place finish in the NBC wrestling championships hosted by Woodmore.
“This has been a great year. I’m very proud of this team,” said Bonnigson.
The Wildcats finished third in the league meet, behind Genoa and Eastwood, and fourth in the overall final league standings, which include points earned in the league quads/duals earlier in the season. Woodmore’s total of 22 overall points was one less than third-place Lake.
Ulinski is doing his part in helping Bonnigson build one of the better wrestling programs in the NBC. One of the conference's smallest schools, Woodmore has steadily improved, finishing fifth, fourth and third in the last seasons. This season, Ulinski, a three-time league champion, along with first-time champion Thomas Schnitker, were the Wildcat’s two NBC champions. The Wildcats had three second place finishes (Seth Gaghen, Dylan Young, Spencer Linke), a third place finish (Joe Flores) and a fourth place finish (Matt Zatko).
“This was my first year wrestling, and I am glad I got some wins that I didn’t expect to get. This was the most challenging sport I’ve ever done, and I’m very glad I decided to join this program,” said Zatko, a senior.
Could better things be in store for the Wildcats?
“I think more than anything, Coach Bonnigson, along with assistant coach Steve Ulinski, has developed an environment within the program based on a positive team chemistry and hard work,” Barr said. “Every wrestler is held responsible for being a positive contributor to the team while also putting forth the necessary effort to make themselves better, and in turn, your teammates better.
“And, when you have Evan as an example, it has made it that much easier for everyone in the program to 'buy in' to the philosophy. There is a very positive vibe in all levels of the program right now and everything is pointed in the right direction. The coaching staff should be proud of where the program is, and we will continue to put things in place that will make it possible for the program to continue to improve.”
Besides being a stellar wrestler who has been competing in the sport since he was 6-years-old, Ulinski plays football and baseball. In baseball, he divides his time between shortstop and second base and bats leadoff. In football, he is one of the team's top receivers, having caught 43 passes for 534 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns last fall.
(Woodmore senior journalism student Michael Travis contributed to this article with permission. His contributions are from the February edition of Window To Woodmore, a student publication),