It would be easy for Woodmore standout senior wrestler Evan Ulinski to say he intimidates opponents on the mat, but he won't.
The returning 106-pound state runner-up is already 24-0 this season, with 21 pins and one technical fall, and he owns the school record for career pins with 101. And yet...
“I don’t try to intimidate,” Ulinski said. “As a 5-foot-5 guy, I don’t think I’m too intimidating.”
Ulinski entered this season with a 133-12 career record and has his sights set on becoming the 113-pound Division III state champion on March 1 in Columbus. If he reaches the finals, chances are he’ll have a chance to erase the memory of last year’s state title match loss to Delta freshman Jake Spiess.
Spiess defeated Ulinski 5-1 in overtime in that match, and Ulinski has a good memory. He said Spiess has also moved up to the 113-pound weight class this season.
“I tried a takedown (in overtime) and got thrown to my back,” Ulinski recalled. “I think about it pretty often. It motivates me. I’m looking forward to (a rematch).”
Ulinski is off to a rousing start, even though he said he feels he hasn’t faced the toughest of the tough on the mat thus far. He won his weight class at the Bellevue Invitational, the Woodmore ‘A’ Classic and at last Saturday’s Lima Senior Spartan Invitational and was named the most outstanding wrestler at all three tournaments.
Ulinski recorded his 150th career win on Jan. 4 at the ‘A’ Classic, and he is closing in on Johnny Bedford’s school record for career wins (169).
“Evan looks very solid this year,” Woodmore coach Dane Bonnigson said. “He’s wrestled, for the most part, mistake free and he’s very determined. He works hard to try to improve himself every day. By the end of the season, if he keeps working like this, he’s going to put himself in position to get a state title, which I’m sure is his goal.”
Ulinski said his mindset right now is to “wrestle smart and stay solid and not try to wrestle outside myself, like make dumb, unnecessary mistakes that I don’t need to do. It seems like it’s worked out pretty good this year.”
Going undefeated heading into the state tournament, he said, is somewhat of a goal, but not a necessity.
“You learn more from losing than you do from winning, in my experience,” Ulinski said. “You should go into the state tournament having wrestled tough matches. I haven’t really been challenged yet. I’m not mad about it, I just feel like I can wrestle better. I haven’t really wrestled that great of competition so far. I should be facing some good competition pretty soon.”
He added that surpassing Bedford’s school record for career victories is definitely on his radar.
“It’s pretty important,” Ulinski said. “I feel if I just continue at this pace, I’ll pass it. I started thinking about it last season, when I realized how close I actually was.”
Ulinski said he wrestled at open gyms and attended a wrestling camp in Virginia in the offseason. He didn’t have much time to concentrate on wrestling over the summer, what with the football season approaching in late August.
Ulinski excelled at that, too, last fall. A 135-pound wide receiver for the Wildcats, he caught 63 passes for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, earning first-team All-Northern Buckeye Conference and all-district honors. He was named special mention All-Ohio in Division VI.
“I probably like football better than wrestling,” Ulinski said. “I have more fun.”
Moving up a weight class to 113 pounds this season, Ulinski said, hasn’t been much of an adjustment.
“All of the kids actually weigh 113 instead of, at 106 maybe there was a kid who could have gained some weight and still been 106. I’m still in the weight room all the time making sure I’m the strongest guy in the circle. I’m kind of a workaholic. I like being in practice trying to get in the best condition, then go in the weight room trying to be the strongest.”
Ulinski has a 4.05 GPA and has earned an appointment to attend the Air Force Academy.
Woodmore standout senior wrestler Evan Ulinski on Senior Night. (Press photo by Russ Lytle)
Woodmore standout senior wrestler Evan Ulinski gives mom Kelly Ulinski a kiss on Senior Night. (Press photo by Russ Lytle)