By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Mogadore senior Tyler Shellenbarger entered Sunday’s state finals ready to live in the moment and be ready for whatever his opponent had for him.
What may seem like a calm approach, was just that, but not without a relentless aggressiveness to strike when the opportunity presented itself.
The formula resulted in the ultimate prize, with Shellenbarger winning the 190-pound state championship with a 7-5 sudden victory over Harrison Central junior Lucas Thomas.
It was the same flair for the dramatics that Shellenbarger showcased in his semifinal win that required a takedown in the closing seconds to advance.
“The first thing you are taught in wrestling is to never look at the clock,” Shellenbarger said. “My main thought was to just keep capitalizing on what was given to me, and I guess it turned out to be dramatic, at least that is what everyone keeps telling me.”
Inside his individual moment, Shellenbarger could not help but think of his entire community.
“Being a state champion, I am not sure it has hit me yet, but right now everything is just a surreal feeling,” he said. “All I know is that there is nothing better than bringing a state title back to the two I grew up in my whole life.”
Shellenbarger’s state championship came after he very nearly was eliminated in the first round. He advanced out of his opening match, a victory over Zane Hitchcock of Mechanicsburg, with a takedown in the first overtime period.
In his semifinal win over Beachwood’s Uzonna Nzekwe, Shellebarger trailed 4-3 before his takedown flipped the advantage and pushed him into the state finals.
Shellenbarger is Mogadore’s first state champion since 1997 and the first in the 10-year career of Wildcats head coach Duane Funk, who got a piece of Shellenbarger on Sunday, too.
Earlier on Sunday, the pair had discussed and agreed that if Shellenbarger would win the state final, there would be a special celebration: Shellenbarger would lat drop Funk on the mat.
A moment created through the strong relationship that Shellenbarger and Funk share together.
“I have basically grown up with Coach Funk in my life forever,” Shellenbarger said. “I think I see him every single weekend throughout the entire spring, summer and fall. My younger sister and his daughter play on the same softball team, so we are always around each other.”
It is not the only relationship that Shellenbarger felt helped him to the top of the podium.
The Wildcats’ senior avenged the loss of his former teammate Michael Lowe, who lost in the 215 finals last year and was one of Shellenbearger’s training partners, along with Nick Skye and Tyler Knight.
“They always would push me to my limits, in a good way,” Shellenbarger said. “I feel like my win tonight is as much for me as it is them, because they made me the wrestler I am and the person I am today.”
And that is a state champion.
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