There may be no better motivator in sports than a close call. For Adam Cogar, the call couldn't have been any closer, nor the ensuing motivation any greater.
Cogar, a 215-pound senior from Barberton, was state runner-up as a junior, losing a heartbreaking final match 1-0 to Justin Powell of Youngstown Boardman. He hasn't stopped thinking about it since walking off the mat at the Schottenstein Center last March.
“It eats me every day,” Cogar said after winning the Suburban League championship for the third consecutive year. “I'm fortunate because I was a junior last year so it wasn't my last shot at it. I'm sure you can imagine how it feels to have to goal you've been working for all your life and be there all your life and have it taken away from you.”
Cogar lost just two matches as a junior, both to Powell, now a freshman at Ohio University. He hasn't lost since that state title match defeat and he has no plans to. He's looking to be Barberton's second individual state champ and first since Gary James won in 1961.
With three weeks left in his career, Cogar is exactly where he wants to be. He and his Barberton teammates will compete in the loaded Medina Division I Sectional next week, where five conference championship teams are among the 12-team field.
“This is everything I've prepared for,” Cogar said. “I'm ready to go.”
Don't think the SL tourney was a walk in the park for Cogar – or for anybody. The eight-team Akron-area conference boasts two teams – Wadsworth and Medina Highland – that could finish in the top five in the state in Division I and II, respectively.
While Cogar's first two matches – a pin of Copley's Joe Connolly in 1:25 and a 24-9 tech fall against Tallmadge's Nick Thompson in the semifinals – were easy, he still needed to get past Highland junior Tyler Houska in the championship bout.
Houska, a two-time All-Ohioan in football, is rated by Brian Brakeman as the third-best heavyweight in the state in Division II.
“He's a state-caliber athlete, definitely,” Cogar said of Houska. “Anybody can be beaten on any given day. I've beaten him before, but every time I wrestle him I have to treat it like a state finals match, because he's a good kid. It's hard to beat someone one time, let along two or three or four times.”
Cogar is looking for his third consecutive 50-win season, all while maintaining a grade-point average of better than 4.0. He will attend the University of Virginia on a wrestling scholarship next year.
Despite his runner-up finish a year ago, Cogar is only rated by Brakeman as the second-best 215-pounder in Division I. The top honor goes to Cincinnati Elder's Orlando Scales.
Wadsworth won the team championship for a 16th consecutive year, but it wasn't nearly the foregone conclusion as in many years. Highland had more wrestlers in the championship round, but Wadsworth's dept made the difference.
“There's a lot of good individuals here,” Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia said. “It was spread out pretty well. There's definitely some good talent in the league. We only had, what, three champions? That says it right there. We've had seven or eight champions in the past. All the schools came and wrestled hard.”
Winning championships for the Grizzlies were Dan Foore (125, junior); Brad Squire (130, sophomore) and sophomore Ben Buzzelli (sophomore heavyweight). Squire was a state champ as a freshman.
Wadsworth also had three runner-up finishes and had wrestlers in either the championship or consolation in 13 of 14 classes.
Highland led with four champs and had three runners-up, but could only advance 11 wrestlers into the final matches of the night.
Freshman Dan Mirman, a potential state titlist, won at 103. Senior Bart Young, another who should score big at state, won at 112. The Hornets' other big-time state hopeful, other than Houska, 152-pound senior Steve Timoteo, also won. Junior Ben Brown won at 160 for the Hornets.
“We've been runner-up six out of the 10 years I've been here,” Highland coach Mark Savoia said. “I haven't been able to find out how to win it yet. They (Wadsworth) are a great program, but I'm very proud of my program. We only have 17 kids in our wrestling room, but we're still able to hang with some of the bigger schools in the state. We might not win it, but wrestled as good as anyone.”
Others winning SL individual titles were Jeremy Dombrady (Copley, 119), Jeff Brown (Tallmadge, 135), John Dittrich (Copley, 140), Shane Jenkins (Cloverleaf, 145), Aaron Donze (Tallmadge, 171) and Kevin Baker (Green) 189.
Led by Cogar, Barberton finished third in the team race with 96, followed by Green (84), Tallmadge (83) and Cloverleaf (77). Tallmadge's finish lifted the Blue Devils from seven in the overall standings into a three-way tie for fifth.