Van Buren’s Kaleb Snodgrass, right, grapples with Liberty-Benton’s Matthew Berger during their 285-pound match in Friday’s in-school dual at Liberty-Benton High School. (Photo by Michael Burwell)

By MICHAEL BURWELL

SPORTS EDITOR

Kaleb Snodgrass has the physical tools to duplicate, or even improve on, what he did a season ago. But the biggest takeaway the Van Buren senior heavyweight learned from losing in the 2019 Division III 220-pound state final may help him more between the ears.

“I think the biggest thing was just mentally getting that experience and being able to be blessed and realize what I have in front of me when I’m able to do what I’m capable of,” Snodgrass said of his 19-4 loss to Columbus Grandview Heights’ Hudson Jump in the state championship match. “So I think the biggest thing is it has really been more of an eye-opener, just how much more work I need to do. Just to go out there and lose in the state finals, it was definitely frustrating, but at the same time, it was a good lesson and I definitely learned and just trying to work forward and get better every day.”

Snodgrass, despite being slowed by a football injury to start the 2019-20 wrestling season, is off to an 8-0 start in the 285-pound weight class. He posted five pins, all in less than 30 seconds, at the season-opening Cory-Rawson Duals on Dec. 7.

“He’s a big boy. He’s getting bigger and bigger and stronger,” Van Buren coach Justin Slauterbeck said. “He’s still recovering from a football injury, so we’ve been limiting him at practice. So his conditioning’s not there yet and he knows it, so he’s going to continue just to improve throughout the season.”

Snodgrass admits that even with the quick start to the season, he still has a long way to go to reach his goal.

“I know how good I am at wrestling and I know what I need to do to finish those matches, so I’ve just got to keep working hard and get to where I need to be because I’m definitely not there yet,” Snodgrass said.

The Black Knights’ senior recently signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, a strong Division I wrestling program. That has given him even more motivation to continue improving.

“That’s just one more thing that I need to keep striving for,” Snodgrass said. “I think all that really is, is just to let me know that no matter what, even if I do win a state championship this year, I’ve still got to get better every day to get to that next level and get to that Division I wrestling level and just got to keep striving for it.”

Snodgrass, along with several of the top area wrestlers and teams, will be tested this weekend at the Border War Tournament at Defiance High School. Wrestlers from 43 schools will compete in the two-day tournament that begins today.

“He’s got a big tournament (this) weekend at Defiance; we’re taking a couple of our stud kids there. But we expect big things from Kaleb,” Slauterbeck said. “Kaleb knows his mission is state champ, and he’s going to continue to work that way and get there.”

BORDER WAR BATTLE: Van Buren, Findlay High, Liberty-Benton, Bluffton, Columbus Grove, Ottawa-Glandorf and Patrick Henry will be among the schools competing at Defiance. And some big-time matchups of returning state placers, state qualifiers and those hoping to reach that level this season could be upcoming.

Findlay’s Jonah Smith and Patrick Henry’s Wil Morrow, two state placers in their respective divisions a year ago, are returning champs in the tournament. Smith won the 138-pound division, while Morrow topped the 195-pound division.

Other returning top-three finishers from last year’s Border War include Bluffton’s Tayton Kleman (runner-up at 106), Patrick Henry’s T.J. Rhamy (runner-up at 160), Columbus Grove’s Dylan Sargent (third at 220) and the Bulldogs’ Jeff Meyer (third at 285). Rhamy and Meyer were both top-six finishers in their respective weight classes at state last season, while Sargent was also a state qualifier.

100 AND COUNTING: Elmwood senior Will Bechstein reached the 100-career-win milestone last weekend at the Archbold Fricker’s Duals at Defiance College. A returning fourth-place state finisher at 220 pounds, Bechstein is coming off an 8-2 performance at Defiance and will look to add to his win total this weekend.

It won’t be easy.

For the second-straight season, Elmwood will be competing in the Brecksville Holiday Tournament. The Royals are one of 48 schools scheduled to compete in the 59th edition of the tournament, with a majority of those teams being Division I or II teams from Ohio.

Elmwood sophomore Gunner Endicott (9-1 with six pins at 160) and senior Sanford Fraley (7-3 with two pins at 182) are also coming off strong performances at Defiance College.

The two-day tournament begins Sunday.

Burwell, 419-427-8407

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