The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Boxing's loss was the Clay wrestling team's gain.

"I started boxing when I was like 7-years-old," said the Eagles' 103-pound senior, Nick Garcia. "I stopped at seventh grade. I was actually pretty good. I was a Golden Gloves and Silver Gloves champion. Then I got in a car accident and never went back. I tore a muscle in my back and it was killing me."

Garcia's father, Rick, wanted his son to stay involved in sports, so he persuaded Nick to take up wrestling.

"My dad wanted me to wrestle really bad," Garcia said. "I wasn't doing any sports or anything else. Just doing nothing. He wanted me to do sports to keep my grades up."

Garcia's grades are just fine, and his wrestling ability is even better.

Not only is he a two-time defending City League champion at 103 pounds, Garcia is one of the favorites to win the Division I state title in his weight class. Garcia fifth at last year's state tournament and is ranked third in the Brakeman Report.

"He never wrestled until he got to high school," Clay coach Gerry Anthony said. "That's pretty unique. His goal is to be our first state champion. At the state tournament, if he wrestles his best, he can beat anybody. He's very quick and very strong."

Garcia and the Eagles will try to defend their 2009 City League title during Friday's CL tournament at Rogers. Garcia takes a 29-0 record, which includes 14 pins, into the tourney.

Garcia has been a champion at all of Clay's biggest tournaments this season: at Waite, Solon, Mentor, the Greater Miami Valley Coaches Association tournament and the Bowling Green Duals.

"Nick has been a dominant force every time on the mat," Anthony said. "In those tournaments he's beaten some quality state qualifiers and state placers. He has this maturity level and he has a persona where he acts like a champion, and he is very confident."

The 5-foot-1 Garcia said he gets a lot of his confidence from Clay assistant coach Adam Morris, who took the young wrestler under his wing when he was a freshman competing on the junior varsity team as a 112-pounder.

"Coach Morris has been in my (corner) almost every match since my freshman year," Garcia said. "Before each match he tells me, 'Remember, you're a man and this kid's a boy,' and things like that. That always helps my confidence.

"My freshman year he told me he didn't want me to cut weight, which everyone hates. He just wanted me to enjoy my first year of wrestling, and I liked it."

Before last season, the last Clay wrestler to place at the state tournament was Lonnie Rivera, who took second at 189 pounds in 1991.

Garcia finished 46-11 last season and has 109 career varsity victories. Anthony, for one, isn't surprised.

"Nick is short in stature, but he's powerful," the coach said. "He has a no-fear attitude. I've never seen him go out there with any fear in any big match. He is very confident in himself."

Garcia said his goal as a senior was to go undefeated and win a state title.

"I'm pretty confident and I've been working hard," he said. "I don't think anyone in my weight class wants it as much as I do. That gives me that little push that I can win it. I'm pretty happy with how I've been doing."

Clay is favored to repeat as CL champion, with last year's runner-up, Central Catholic, expected to be the Eagles' main challenger. Clay beat the host Irish 32-23 in a dual meet on Jan. 27.

"I would't say (we feel) pressure," Anthony said. "We know it's going to be a battle. I like the challenge. I try to teach my kids to embrace the challenges, and that's what we're doing."

The rest of the Eagles' lineup for the CL tournament will include sophomore Mike Screptock (36-6) at 112 pounds, junior Cody Kish (26-9) at 119, sophomore Jacob Conine (12-5) at 125, sophomore Angelo Amenta (34-5) at 130, senior and two-time league champ Mark Orth (14-7) at 135, junior Matt Kohler (24-11) at 140, junior Nico Castilleja (18-13) at 145, senior Anthony Resendez (21-9) at 152, junior Chico Cloyne (22-7) at 160, junior Shane Gaghen (7-4) at 171, senior returning state qualifier Mike Ackerman (31-2) at 215 and senior Jarrod Snoderly (31-5) at 285.

Clay's junior varsity team is seeking its third straight CL title this weekend.

"They have an outstanding record this year once again," Anthony said. "All three of our teams have been very successful."

Bill Cosby

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