Jay Nino isn’t giving himself any time to sit back, relax and enjoy the Division III state wrestling title he won in Columbus last Saturday night.
Genoa’s junior 220-pounder secured the title by pinning New Paris National Trail freshman Ben Sullivan in 5:03 in the title match at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
“Right now I’m just going to enjoy it, enjoy the feeling,” Nino said. “I’ll start getting ready for freestyle and the Disney Duals, and I’m already going to start hitting the weight room tomorrow (Monday). I feel good; I’m not that beat up. You’ve got to have that mindset that, yeah, I am the (defending) state champion next year, but you don’t know who’s out there and you don’t know what they’re capable of. You can’t take this for granted.”
Nino, who finished 65-2, is the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Co-Wrestler of the Year and will receive a plaque from the Oregon business.
Nino qualified to the state tournament with a third-place finish at the district tournament. His only loss there was a 4-3 semifinal loss to Archbold senior Travis Jaramillo, whom Nino beat 3-2 at the Archbold Duals earlier in the season.
“I couldn’t get a takedown (at districts),” Nino said. “I just didn’t wrestle my style. I tried something stupid in the first period and he ended up getting a takedown.”
Nino and Jaramillo would meet again in Columbus.
Nino opened the state tourney with 6-0 and 11-4 victories before meeting Jaramillo (45-9) in the semifinals. Nino came away with a 5-2 victory.
“I just knew I had to stay solid and wrestle my match and not wrestle his,” Nino said. “I just stayed solid and I was patient. I think I wrestled a good match. I just took it one match at a time. I focused on my semifinal match. I didn’t know I had in the finals or who was on the other side of the bracket. Kids look forward to the finals and semifinal matches all the time and end up getting upset by a kid who shouldn’t have beaten you, just because you were overlooking them.”
Nino, who became Genoa’s eighth state champion, said he was impressed that Sullivan, who was 36-3, reached the 220-pound state finals as a freshman.
“I was shocked I was facing a freshman,” Nino said. “It’s a big weight class. I didn’t look at it like, ‘I’m not going to let a freshman beat me.’ Obviously he’s the real deal. For a freshman to make it to the state finals, that’s outstanding. I gave him props. I just went out there and wrestled my match again. I just did what I had to do.”
The score was tied 0-0 entering the second period.
“I rode him out for about a minute in the second period, then he stood up and I got sloppy and he got a reversal on me and got two (points),” Nino said. “With about five seconds left I got my escape and got one point. The coaches told me I had to get (another) escape in the third period. We got into a scramble and I just came out on top of a scramble and got him on his back and got the pin.”
Genoa coach Bob Bergman said he was impressed with the moxie Nino showed in overcoming a 2-1 deficit in the final minute.
“He handled himself really well,” Bergman said. “He channeled his energy. Jay thrives on creating flurries, like scramble situations. He wrestled a fundamentally sound kid who was tall and was riding him really tough. Jay took a risk and made him scramble and he came out on top. It was neat to see him pull it out like that. Jay has that never-say-die attitude.”
Nino said he has dreamed of becoming a state champion ever since he was young, when he and his dad, John, would go to Columbus to watch the state tournament.
“I went every year with my dad,” Nino said. “I thought the Parade of Champions was the coolest thing ever. I couldn’t imagine being out there - and now I’m out there and coming away with the title.”
Genoa had four other individuals qualify for the state tournament, but none were able to place. Senior 138-pounder Max Reeder (27-3), a state qualifier as a freshman at 119, was unable to compete because of a small skin infection. Sophomore Damian D’Emilio (56-9) competed at 106 pounds and lost two decisions sandwiched around a second-round pin of Dakota McCloskey of Girard, in 1:36. Genoa senior Nathan Moore (34-9) also had a second-round pin (in 1:58) but lost by major decision in both the first and third rounds. Senior heavyweight Cody Buckner (38-5) lost both matches by pin.