By JAMIE BAKER
COLUMBUS — It had been awhile since Findlay High School did any Saturday wrestling during state tournament weekend.
Junior Jonah Smith changed that.
Smith finished his season with a pin, as he was seventh in the Division I 138-pound weight class at the OHSAA state wrestling tournament at Value City Arena.
“A couple of weeks ago, I would have been excited if I would have thought about finishing seventh,” Smith said after pinning Mentor’s Connor DeBoe in 1:37 in his only match of the day Saturday.
“I had some pretty close losses here, and I’ve seen how much farther they’ve gone then I have. One is in the finals and one took fourth. It makes me think I can be up there, too, I just didn’t perform well enough.”
He performed a bit better than his predecessors, though. The last seven Findlay wrestlers who competed at state came up empty as far as state tournament medals go.
In fact, Findlay’s last state placers came back in 2010, when Max Gladstone was third at 285 pounds and Michael Alexander was fifth at 171.
“It makes us feel pretty good. We felt he could have finished higher. You have to have all of the right combinations of things to go your way to place down here,” said Findlay High School coach Ben Kirian.
“I’m not sure Matt Alexander was the best 189-pounder when he won down here. I also know Mike Alexander might have been the best kid down here and he ended up fifth.
“For our program, it’s huge. We’ve gotten a lot of guys down here but just haven’t gotten a placer in a while. It starts to weigh on everyone in the program. When Jonah won yesterday, we were all very excited.”
While Smith will count as the ninth state wrestling placewinner in school history, he isn’t even a Findlay High School student.
Smith is home-schooled. His mom, an education major in college, home-schools Jonah and his siblings.
Luckily for Smith, and the Trojans, the state legislature put a provision in the 2012 budget bill allowing home-schooled students the right to play sports in the public school district where they reside.
Smith was in seventh grade at the time the measure passed and joined Donnell Middle School’s wrestling team.
He learned plenty in his first trip to Columbus.
“Anything can happen down here. There are upsets all the time. No one is bad, because this is the best of the best. It might sound kind of cheesy, but that’s the way it is,” said Smith, who won his 100th career match earlier this season and finished the year with a 47-10 record.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘bulk up.’ This is what I want to do: I want to get faster, stronger and more technical. If I do those three things, I can come back and place higher. I want to win next year, and I think I have a chance.”