Jay Nino took a 57-1 record into the Division III district wrestling tournament at Bowling Green State University.
Genoa’s junior 220-pounder has already won Northern Buckeye Conference and sectional titles the past two weeks, and he hasn’t lost since the final round of the Napoleon Duals on Jan. 17-18. Nino said a big reason for his success this season is the work he put in during the offseason.
Nino practiced with the Lake Erie Wrestling Club last May and June and competed in four freestyle tournaments, in addition to attending various camps. He competed with Perrysburg’s squad at the Disney Duals in Orlando, Fla., winning nine of 10 matches.
|Genoa wrestler Jay Nino, the Division III sectional champion, takes down
Woodmore’s runner-up, Henry Flores, in the 220 pound championship.
(Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com)
“A lot of my friends from biddy wrestle at Perrysburg and I still keep in touch with them,” Nino said. “They needed a 220-pounder and we just hooked up. I wrestled at Perrysburg for camps and stuff and I knew the coaches.”
Nino often spent six days a week in the weight room and, during the 2013 football season, started at linebacker for the Comets.
“It all contributed to this,” Nino said. “I never really, honestly, from freshman to sophomore year put much time into the offseason. I wish I would have, because now I see how it really does help.”
Nino also spends a good amount of time after practice with assistant coach Dave Wlodarz, who helps Nino work on his conditioning.
“Coach Wlodarz and I have been working hard after practice and stepping it up,” Nino said. “We’ll do like a 12-minute jump rope and he pushes me. He has me run sprints, and he’ll usually drill live with me. I can tell it’s helping a lot.”
Nino spent last weekend pinning all four of his opponents at the Lake sectional, pinning Woodmore’s Henry Flores in 4:50 of the championship match. He and eight teammates advanced to districts, including sectional champions Damian D’Emilio, a 106-pound sophomore, senior Max Reeder (23-2 at 138), junior Tyler Baird (39-2 at 182) and senior heavyweight Cody Buckner (35-1).
D’Emilio (51-6) earned his 100th career win when he pinned junior Thomas Schnitker of Woodmore in the third period, helping Genoa win its third straight sectional crown. D'Emillio is the first sophomore in school history to join the elite fraternity of 15 Comet wrestlers to reach 100 wins.
The Comets outdistanced Northern Buckeye Conference foe Otsego by a margin of 32½ points for the sectional title. The championship is the team’s fourth tournament title this season.
Nino competed at last year’s state tournament, going 1-2 at 220 pounds. He has been on a mission this season, but he said going through the regular season undefeated wasn’t a high priority.
“It was possible,” he said. “I’ve only lost one match, 4-2, so it’s not like I just got dominated. To go undefeated, it would have been nice. My ultimate goal is to be a state champ. It’s not like my season went down the drain just because I lost that match.”
That match would be the two-point decision he surrendered to Springfield senior Devin Nye at the Napoleon Duals. Nye, who took fifth at last year’s D-I state tourney, is still undefeated this season and only has seven career losses.
“It was a tie match and Jay was riding him and gave up a reversal at the end of the match,” Genoa head coach Bob Bergman said. “The more you go without a loss, everyone starts talking about it. It becomes less about wrestling and more about record, and Jay takes pride in his wrestling. It was just a good eye-opener. I was curious to see how Jay would take that (loss), and he handled it really well. I think it gave him some resolve here the last couple weeks in the (practice) room.”
Nino said losing to Nye motivated him to work harder.
“Before that match I was kind of thinking I was invincible,” he said. “I was undefeated almost halfway through the season. Honestly, it was best for me that I did end up losing that match. It was kind of a wakeup call.”
Nino is closing in on the school’s single-season mark for victories, set by 145-pounder Drew Keenan last season. Keenan won 62 matches and went 1-2 at the state tournament. Nino, who set the school record with 35 pins a year ago, has 41 this season.
“He’s really quick and he can pin from every position,” Bergman said. “He has multiple takedowns and setups, and he’s almost impossible to ride. Jay is a gamer. Most wrestlers get some anxiety about tough matches. Jay wants them. He’s thirsting for those high drama matches this late in the season.”
The 5-foot-11 Nino, who has a 154-22 career record, said this time of year is what every wrestler works for, and he is no different.
“It’s that time of year to really step it up,” said Nino, who wants to wrestle in college. “It’s pretty rewarding at the end of the season when you know your hard work pays off. I’d really like to win districts, to set me up for a good state tournament. To win districts would be big. I just have to wrestle my best and do what I’ve been doing all year, not make any dumb mistakes.”
At districts, Adam Bates (34-24), earned runner up honors while brother Brandon Bates (48-7) finished in third. Nathan Moore (29-6) and Dustin Widmer (32-26) took fourth while Matt Herrick (19-11) took sixth.