HARROD — After falling short of qualifying for the state wrestling tournament last season, Allen East’s Schuyler Caprella quickly turned his focus to M&M’s.
And it wasn’t candy he was yearning for.
Caprella, who competed in the 113-pound weight class last season as a freshman, went 2-2 at the Division III district tournament at Troy and fell short in his quest of making it to the state tournament.
The top four placers in each weight class at the district tournament advance to the state tournament. Last season, Caprella did not advance to the finals to wrestle for the top four spots at the district tournament.
That’s when longtime Allen East coach Mike Abbey broke it down for Caprella, as well as the entire team.
“That’s one of the things we noticed at districts last year, is that we had to get bigger and meaner,” Abbey said. “We talk about M&M’s — meanness and muscle. He (Caprella) is one of the guys who has worked really hard at it. It all comes down to working hard in the (wrestling) room. He’s gotten a little bit stronger and he’s just really sound. He’s a smart kid and takes everything in. And he’s been wrestling well.”
Caprella was 29-5 following a stellar performance this past Saturday at the Northwest Conference Championships, where he won the title in the 126-pound weight class. As a team, Allen East finished second.
After last season, Caprella got refocused right away.
“Going 2-2 at districts, it really makes you want to work harder to get to that next level,” Caprella said. “I’ve done a few camps here and there. I’ve constantly been working out and wrestling. I played football just to get in shape, get stronger and get a little meaner.”
Along with changing his mental outlook, Caprella moved up two weight classes this season.
“He worked really hard during the offseason,” Abbey said. “He wrestled in the spring and all summer, and he really found the weight room. I think that has really been the difference. As a wrestler, he’s still getting better. But as an athlete, he’s really increased his strength and endurance.”
Along with going 4-0 at the Northwest Conference Championships, Caprella finished second at the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbird Invitational the last weekend in January. The Thunderbird Invite is viewed by many as possibly the most competitive Division III regular-season tournament in the state.
In the championship match at the Thunderbird Invite, Caprella lost 12-0 to Archbold senior Damian Short. Last season, Short was a state-qualifier.
However, just to make it to the championship bout at the Thunderbird Invite, Caprella had to get by some pretty tough competition along the way.
There was one win for Caprella at the Thunderbird Invite that stood out from the rest.
“One of the biggest matches he had this year is when he knocked off (Hillsdale’s Jett) Helenbrand, the No. 1 seed,” Abbey said. “He won 3-2 in the semis (of the Thunderbird Invite), and that kid is ranked in the top 10 in the state. So, it was a nice win for Schuyler.”
Caprella, who began wrestling at the age of 4, comes from a family that has embraced the sport of wrestling.
“My uncle (Joe Caprella) started me on it. He was a big wrestler at LCC,” Caprella said. “He got me into it, and I’ve loved it ever since.
“I have two little brothers. Chase is a seventh-grader and Gavin is a fifth-grader. They both wrestle. They are always in my corner cheering me on.”
Caprella tries to lead by example.
“Me and my wrestling partners (Lee Dues and Brandon Soules), it’s between us,” Caprella said. “We really push for those M&M’s, during the offseason and regular season.”
Caprella is focused on getting through the district tournament and qualifying for the state tournament.
The first step for Caprella is to get through the Division III sectional tournament at Lima Central Catholic on Feb. 27 and 28. The top four placers in each weight class will advance to districts. Then, the top four finishers at districts will compete at the state tournament at Ohio State (March 12-14).
“The plan is to stay at this weight and just beat out anybody who gets in my way,” Caprella said. “The ultimate goal is to get down to state, win a couple matches and get up on the podium. I like being the underdog — the guy who comes back and surprises a lot of people.”