Last year’s state wrestling tournament has been on the mind of Bluffton’s Deandre Nassar.
For months, Nassar has thought about his tough 5-4 loss in his Division III state semifinal match (195-pound weight class) to Bloomdale Elmwood’s Dylan Hinton. Nassar came into the state tournament as a No. 1 seed, after winning the district title. Nassar went on to finish fourth at the state tournament and recorded a 41-3 record.
The 2016-17 season, Nassar went 1-2 at the state tournament.
Now a senior, Nassar is on a mission to not only get back to the state tournament in March, but to make it to the finals and vie for a state title.
“I missed the finals last year,” Nassar said. “I just want to make the finals before I go out my senior year. That’s been my goal since I was little. I’ve always wanted to be in the finals and be in the Walk of Champions (finals ceremony).
“Just losing that (semifinal) match when it was so close, that hurt me a lot. So, I want to redeem myself, get to the finals this year and hopefully win state.”
Nassar said he does not worry about which weight class he will compete in, or who his next opponent will be.
“I worry about myself,” he said. “I’ve been at 195 (-pound weight class) since my freshman year. So, I really don’t want to move. I just want to beat them. I don’t want to run from anybody.”
Nassar, who also is a standout on the gridiron, says he realizes he’s the man to beat.
“I feel like I have a target and that everybody wants to wrestle me,” he said. “Everyone loves an underdog and I’m not one of those right now.”
Even though Nassar has been involved in many big matches throughout his young career, he does admit the state tournament at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center is something out of the ordinary.
“The first match at state is always nerve-racking,” Nassar said with a smile. “Just to walk down the hall (in the Schottenstein Center) and all that, gets to me every time. But once I wrestle my first match, I kind of get into the zone.”
poised to make run
Last season, Lima Central Catholic’s Joey Caprella steamrolled through the competition, won the Division III district title at 145 pounds and took a perfect 40-0 mark down to the state tournament.
Caprella went on to place fifth in his first appearance at the state tournament and posted an impressive 43-2 mark on the season. He did not lose his first match of the season until he was defeated in the state semifinals.
This year as a senior, Caprella comes into the season ranked No. 1 in the 152-pound weight class.
“I kind of had the jitters there last year,” Caprella said about his first appearance at the state tournament. “I didn’t do my best wrestling at state. Hopefully when I get back, I will have the confidence that I didn’t have last year when I was down there.
“I expected to go higher. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. I made it down there, and it felt like what I did during the season wasn’t working down there; and maybe I wasn’t executing the way I should have been. It was state, so it was different. I think I just had the jitters for being down there for the first time.”
Caprella is focused on getting back to the state tournament and stepping higher up on the awards podium. As an added incentive, Caprella’s second cousin, Chase Caprella, who was a standout at Allen East, transferred to LCC last May and has been drilling with Joey ever since then. Chase’s freshman brother Gavin, also transferred to LCC.
Last season as a sophomore at Allen East, Chase Caprella competed at the state tournament at 113, where he went 0-2. Now, there will be three Caprellas wrestling at LCC.
“Chase, since he transferred at the very end of the school year, we’ve been wrestling a couple times a week and doing cross fit every day,” Joey said. “We’ve been preparing and getting our technique down.
“Drilling with Chase and Gavin, it’s so different. I constantly have someone in my face as much as I am in theirs.”
With the extra work he put in during the offseason, along with getting through his initial appearance at ‘The Schott,’ Joey Caprella is focused on one thing.
“I want to win it (state title),” he said.
Other area returnees
to keep an eye on
Last season as a junior, Lima Senior’s Naeem Russell made school history when he finished fifth at the Division I state tournament at 152 pounds. Russell was the first state-placer from Lima Senior since 1988. Russell also was district runner-up.
Columbus Grove heavyweight Jeff Meyer made it to last year’s Division III state tournament as a freshman, and went 1-2 down there.
“It was one of my goals,” Meyer said. “I knew I could make it. Just getting down there, it was a whole different level. But I think I’m ready for it this year.
“It’s very breath taking. Me and my partner, (Columbus Grove’s) Dylan Sargent (220), went down on the mats before the tournament started and just looked around. It (the Schottenstein Center) was big. It’s 10 times bigger when the seats get all filled up. It just blew me away.”
Sargent went 0-2 at last year’s state tournament as a sophomore.
Van Wert’s Gabe Steyer is hoping to make it back to the state tournament. Last season Steyer went 1-2 in Division II at 132.
“Going down to state last year, that’s what I wanted to do,” Steyer said. “I wanted to make it to state and I wanted to surprise a lot of people, being a sophomore and being one of the youngest ones in my bracket.
“This year, I’m looking to get on the podium. Last year, I was kind of star struck by the whole thing. This year, I’ll be ready.”
Van Wert’s Isaiah Bretz, was district runner-up last season in Division II at 138 as a junior. He went 0-2 at the state tournament.
At Allen East, Drake Carmean was district runner-up in Division III at 120 as a freshman. Carmean went 1-2 at the state tournament. Teammate Garrett Neth was runner up at district at 182 as a sophomore, and went 1-2 at Columbus.
Ottawa-Glandorf’s Danny Rosales was district runner up at 170 as a junior, and went on to finish seventh at the Division III state tournament.
Wapakoneta’s Evan Kaeck won the Division II district title last season at 220 as a sophomore. Kaeck went on to place sixth at the state tournament. Teammate Brenan Knueve won a district title last season at 285 as a junior, and then went 0-2 down in Columbus.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.