The 82nd Annual Ohio State Wrestling Individual Tournament was held the weekend of March 8 – 10 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus. After a four-year drought, North Royalton High School was represented by senior, 152 pounder, Paul Twarog, and junior, Lazar Gasic, at 220 pounds. Both were first timers down in Columbus as participants. Paul entered the tournament with an impressive resume. No only did he amass 100 career wins entering the three-day tournament, he went 44-7 on the season. Gasic, who was returning from an ankle injury, went 32-4.
It was both wrestlers’ first time under the bright lights of “The Schott” as it’s known in the state’s capital. In his first match, after some initial scrambling, Twarog prevailed with a 7-1 victory over Dane Fenice (Col. Franklin Heights). And just like that, with no experience in the tournament, Twarog was 1-0 and done for the evening. Gasic on the other hand, was given a very difficult draw and faced Stanford football recruit, Seamus O’Malley of St. Eds. After a period of flurry-filled wrestling, the score remained 0-0. Gasic surrendered 3 points the second period and ended up losing by a fall near the end of the match.
In Columbus, the motto is “win your next match and survive.” Gasic did just that and rebounded to win his first round of consolation matches by defeating Worthington Kilborne’s Jay Thompson 8-2, in a match dominated by the NR grappler. Moving Day down at states is on Friday. If one wins, they’re guaranteed a spot on the podium, which means being one of the eight best wrestlers in their weight class. Tough seeding striked again as Twarog lost to the eventual state champion from St. Eds, Sam Dover, 11-4. Not a bad outing, considering Dover is ranked 4th nationally and is headed to Oklahoma later this year on a wrestling scholarship.
Anxiously waiting his third match, Gasic watched the quarterfinals to finish. His opponent this time, the same foe from the District Finals the previous week. Barberton’s Paul Zentiska (45-5). After three periods and the first overtime, the score was deadlocked at one each. Unfortunately for Gasic, his state tournament debut ended in a 3-1 loss and a final record of 1-2. Considering the amount of off season training and wrestling done by Gasic last season to get him to this point, next year will be filled with great expectations to stand atop the podium in the 220 pound weight class.
As for Twarog’s third match, it was as simple as win and place or lose and go home. In a nerve racking match for both Head Coach, Sean Folk and Assistant Nathan Costello, Twarog rode out Derek Spears of Mt. Orab Western Brown (SE of Cincinnati) the entire third period for a narrow 2-1 victory. Just like that, Paul Twarog ended a five-year drought for the wrestling program by being guaranteed at least 8th place. When asked after the match how it felt to be a state placer, Paul humbly replied, “it feels really good.”
Although Twarog’s next two matched ended in defeat while fighting some shoulder pain, he’ll always have a medal that was earned in one of the toughest weight classes in the state. As unassuming as Twarog may appear as a wrestler, he managed to outsmart more than 100 opponents in his career, which was truly something that was undescribable for Coach Folk. “Twarog wasn’t the strongest wrestler I’ve ever coached, but he is one of the sneakiest and toughest kids I’ve ever been around.” Paul plans on pursuing an engineering degree this Fall.