Eagles enter the stretch run with high hopes

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

After wrestling at Heidelberg University, Justin Wharton coached the Student Princes before following his coach, Ned Shuck, to Wisconsin-Whitewater and wound up in Tennessee before returning home to be closer to family. Now the Clay alum is living out his dream of coaching and teaching at his alma mater and is having success in just his first year at the helm.
He’s got a good team, one that just finished third at the Three Rivers Athletic Conference Tournament; one that is particularly strong at the lower-weight classes. (Fremont Ross won the tournament and Findlay was second.)
Leading the pack is Micah Medina, who recently committed to continue his career at the collegiate level at Bellarmine University in Louisville, where Shuck currently coaches. He won the league title for the fourth time and also finished sixth at 113 pounds in Division I last season. Medina is currently ranked fourth in Div. I.
“He’s won the league title in four different weight classes — 103, 113, 120 and 126. He’s a super impressive young man. He was battling some injuries all year, he had some shoulder work done, and he only got to wrestle for half of his senior year. The most impressive thing about him is his poise,” said Wharton.
“Our league tournament, when you get into the semifinals and the finals, you’re going to wrestle some pretty competitive opponents. In the finals, it was close, and when someone fights back, they tend to not rise to the occasion, per se, but Micah turns it up. His poise is super impressive. Having him in the room to be a role model for the way in which someone should practice has been great. I’m glad we have a plethora of wrestlers that have a great work ethic,” he said.
Josh Medina (106) won the TRAC title, as did Garrison Weisner (113), who is ranked sixth in Ohio, and Candio Deluna (120) finished second.
“Our lightweights are very strong. Josh and Micah are two completely different wrestlers — Josh is going to grab you and throw you down on the mat while Micah is more technical,” said Wharton. “Garrison is only a freshman. He’s only got a few losses, two of which he’s avenged. He adds to that lightweight section of our wrestling room.
“Candio has great athletic ability and explosiveness – his speed, his technique, and to go along with that, he’s a grinder in the wrestling room, and all those guys have to because of the weight class above — iron sharpens iron in the lightweight classes. In the final match, he had a nasty injury to his eyeball, and he’s done for the year. It’s tough because you talk about commitment and overcoming things. He’s such a great young man. It breaks my heart to talk about it. He’s been at practice, giving guys pointers on some positions, and that’s just who he is. He plans on wrestling in college. I think he would’ve done something special in the postseason.”
Three Eagles finished third — Austin Ganues (144); Lucas Frasier (157) and Nick Pfeiffer (215).
“Austin — what I remember about him was that he wasn’t very offensive. He has turned it around. He has still lost some matches, but it’s been a process for him. He’s won quite a few matches where he lost to some wrestlers and he avenged them. He beat a good wrestler from Findlay in the semifinals — it was a 6-4 overtime win, but the match was controlled by Austin. His spirits are high coming into this postseason. I’m real excited to see how far he can go, he’s only a sophomore,” said Wharton. “I could talk about all those guys. Lucas is closing in on 100 wins. He’s going to have to pull some wins off at sectionals and districts; he’s been looking forward to this. He’s been in and out with some injuries. Then Nick Pfeiffer is another one of those guys who, week by week, has been making adjustments. I’m excited to see what they do in the postseason.”
Wharton, who graduated from Clay in 2009 and placed seventh in 160 pounds as a senior, talked about his team’s growth.
I feel good. We’re really young, and the guys have made a lot of strides and they’ve made a lot of growth over the course of the last three or four months. Since I got hired back in May, they’ve made huge gains. I feel good. We feel pretty confident looking at the teams in our sectional. It’s been a fun year - some big wins. We beat Findlay in a dual meet. We had some other guys do really well at the Maumee Bay Classic.”
Wharton, who took over for one of Ohio’s best in Ralph Cubberly, talked about the impact Shuck had on him.
“Ned Shuck was the best man at my wedding. The impact is endless, I can’t describe it. I coached with him for five years, we had a good time together, and I learned a lot from him, and his work ethic,” said Wharton. “There are a lot of the things I did (with him) that I implement now.
“I learned from Gerry Anthony and the coaches at Clay. I had fantastic coaches at Clay. I just learned from them, and that’s what drove me to want to be a coach.
“It’s a blast. It was something I’ve always wanted. I’ve got my dream job. I wanted to be a phys ed and health teacher at Clay and coach at my alma mater. To be able to do that, it’s pretty cool, and I love that I get to do that. I’m real blessed and fortunate that I never thought it would happen, but here we are,” he said.
Wharton credited his assistants like Mark Beach, Garrett Anderson, Troy McLaughlin, Josh Nagy and Lyle Campbell. “It’s filled with Clay guys,” he said.
Regarding the competitiveness at the Division I level, Wharton said, “Just in our sectional alone at 120 pounds, four of the top 10 wrestlers in Ohio are in that weight class. We are very fortunate, there are some fantastic men running our wrestling programs like Findlay, Whitmer, Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne.
“Only four make it to districts, and the district includes (Cleveland) St. Ed’s and Olmsted Falls. The competition is very good, we’ve got some of the best wrestlers in the country. We’re in a hot bed of wrestling. I don’t want it any other way,” he said.


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