You gotta hand it to Justin Welch. He doesn't lack confidence.
Asked what chance he has of defending his Division II state title in the discus and possibly grabbing a title in the shot put, the Eastwood junior was succinct.
"The discus, I think winning state again should be pretty easy this year," Welch said. "I don't want to sound cocky, but I think the next closest guy is from (Sandusky) Perkins and he's only thrown 179 or 180 feet this year.
But, he could pull something big out. Everything will come together at the state meet and I should be able to get a big throw in.
"I want to win the shot, too, but that's going to be pretty tough. Another kid from Perkins is a good shot-putter, and (Genoa's Marcus) Vicars can always get a big throw in. It will be us three battling to get first at state."
Welch's best throw of 188-7 in the discus at last year's state meet beat the next closest competitor by more than eight feet. Welch also qualified in the shot put, but his top throw of 48-1.5 wasn't enough to earn him a top-eight finish.
His ability to excel in both events traces back to his freshman year on coach Gary White's squad, when Welch figured out where he wanted to focus his energy.
"After his freshman year he said, 'I'm going to work at this shot and discus thing and I'm going to get good at it,' " White recalled. "He threw all summer. He got some help from a college coach in Bowling Green. He threw better the summer after his freshman year than he did all year in track, so you could tell it was starting to kick in. After that, he's been pretty dominant."
Welch, who has since grown to 6-1, 210 pounds, said he had no choice but to improve. Former Eagles teammates Alex Hernandez and Nick Schuessler gave him no choice.
"My freshman year I got knocked out of going to the league meet and all the big invitationals because we had two better throwers than me," Welch said. "I didn't want that to happen the next year. I wanted to make sure I could be the best and go to all the big meets."
That summer, Welch's mother helped him look up track and field coaches in the area who could help the young Eastwood thrower improve.
"We found one and I started taking lessons from him," Welch said. "I would go twice a week."
The coach was Bowling Green State University women's track and field throw coach Justin Carvahlo, whom Welch still sees twice a week.
"He taught me everything over again," Welch said. "He said you can be good right now doing what you're doing, but you're doing it wrong. He just changed all my technique and stuff, and that was hard. That took a while to learn."
Welch also consults with longtime Eastwood assistant coach Bob Patterson, a Vietnam veteran who has competed in paralympic throwing events at the national level.
"Bob helps out a lot with smaller things with my technique during the course of the week," Welch said. "He helps a lot at meets. He still knows a lot about throwing and techniques, so he can help a lot with that."
White said Welch not only takes instruction well, but he also works hard in other aspects of training and preparing for meets.
"He works really hard in the weight room," White said. "He lifts three days a week and throws every day of the week. That includes the summer, too. He does the Olympic-style lifts and the squats and the bench presses. All those things guys do at the college level, he's doing that right now. He really started getting after it between his freshman and sophomore year. I think he's going to be recruited by a lot of colleges because of his grades and his athletic ability."
Welch has not lost a discus event this season; in fact, he has the longest throw in Division II this spring. He has lost just once in the shot put.
Welch's longest throw in the discus this season is 196-10, in a home dual meet against Woodmore. is best throw in the shot is 58-10, at the Fostoria Invitational.
"Last year at this time I hadn't even thrown over 55 feet in the shot," Welch said. "This year, on my my worst days I throw 56 (feet). This time last year in the discus I threw 181 feet and I've only had one meet this entire season where I wasn't over 180. I want to do better since the bigger meets are right now. I want to save all the good throws for the bigger meets."
Eastwood will look to defend its Suburban Lakes League title on Saturday at Woodmore before it heads to the district meet May 20 and 22. The Eagles will be favored to win the district title, and Welch will be an overwhelming favorite in the discus.
"From what I've heard and seen, there isn't anyone who is that close to me," Welch said. "My goal for the next couple meets is to throw over 200 (feet). I'm pretty sure I've done that in practice. I want to throw 205, because the state record is around 203."
Cory Echelberry of Fostoria set the Division II state record and state meet record in the discus in 1999, with a throw of 203-7.
Welch said he has received "tons" of recruiting letters from colleges, including LSU, Oregon and Arizona State.
"It will be interesting," Welch said, "to see what offers get made and see where I can go."