Imagine qualifying for the state wrestling meet and then finding out you have to sit out because of a skin condition. It happens nearly every year.
As a result, you have to wait another year before you’d get the chance to compete in Columbus for a state title. For a wrestler, it’s frustrating.
That’s what Central Catholic junior Nate Hagan, who was raised on Toledo’s east side, had to deal with last year after winning the district title — a rash that he’d developed had his doctors hold him out from wrestling in Columbus last March.
Needless to say, missing out on competing at state served as a motivator for him during the offseason.
At the Division II state meet last weekend, Hagan answered the call, winning four consecutive matches, the last three in dramatic fashion, to claim the title at 132 pounds.
|Two state champions square off — Central Catholic senior Nate Hagan
is with Clay’s Richie Screptock at the Three Rivers Athletic Conference
meet. Hagan won the Division II 132 pound state championship, and
Screptock won the D-I state title at 132. (Press file photo by Scott Grau)
In the final, Hagan edged St. Paris Graham’s Brent Moore, 3-1, via sudden victory. In the semifinals, Hagan beat Perry’s Aaran Gessic, 3-1, and before that he decisioned Bret Yutzy of Plain City Jonathan Alder, 3-1. In his first match, Hagan pinned Miami Trace’s Bryson Laytart in 5:47 to claim victory.
“My last three matches were close, (but) I handled (my opponents) except in the finals,” Hagan said. “I couldn’t finish any of them, but I finally scored at the end and that saved me from overtime. I had beaten Moore at the state duals, too. It was a great feeling.”
His coach, former state qualifier from Waite and two-time NCAA Division II champion Antonio Guerra, credits Hagan for performing best when everything is on the line in close matches.
“It’s definitely a little nerve-racking,” Guerra said. “Nate is very hard to take down. I don’t think he was taken down the whole tournament. He’s typically in control of his match.
“For Nate, it’s always first place or bust. He’s a huge competitor. As the pressure builds, he thrives. The bigger the stage, the better he does. He shines when the lights come on. On the biggest stage, he knows it’s time to perform. He likes to put on a show.”
Hagan is the first to admit he used his bad fortunate last year as motivation.
“It stuck with me,” Hagan said. “I thought about it before I went to practice and did my workouts. It pushed me to work harder.”
Hagan, whose parents, Chuck and Jennifer (Hernandez) graduated from Waite in 1988, is proud of his east side roots.
“I take some pride,” Hagan said. “That’s where my parents grew up. A lot of people over there know me and support me.”
His cousin, Jose Compos, wrestled for the Indians this season, which he said was nice to see because wrestling had been missing for a few years at Waite because of budget cuts.
“It’s great to see wrestling back in the City League,” Hagan said.
It wasn’t a great season for only Hagan, it was also a great season for his teammates. Central finished third with 95 points and set several school records. Behind Guerra’s coaching, the Irish had nine state qualifiers, five state placers, three wrestlers advance to the finals, and two won a state championship.
Alex Mossing finished first at 152, Josh Mossing was second at 138, Josh Venia came in third at 106 and J’Quan Fisher, a standout linebacker for the football team, was fifth in the heavyweight division.
“The guys have really come together as a family,” said Guerra, who teaches science at the high school. “Every day they have to battle — they don’t get any breaks. They grind it out. And you see the camaraderie — they really came together in the last few months. It boils down to the kids, and they work hard.”
At this point, Hagan, who finished seventh at 120 two years ago, will continue to put the work at practice and in workouts. He plans to spend a lot of time in the weight room and will compete in offseason tournaments, including the prestigious Disney Duals in Orlando over the summer.