Although he seems to be flying well below the radar for his prowess on
the gridiron, offensive line prospect Ben Buzzelli from Wadsworth High
School is more concerned with his performance at the state wrestling
meet right now. Buzzelli, 38-4 on the campaign, is hoping to improve
on his fourth-place finish during his sophomore season last year.
In a year where there seems to be a lot of quality depth among offensive linemen in Ohio, one of the players that seems to be completely flying under the radar is Ben Buzzelli of Wadsworth High School. Buzzelli is in Columbus this weekend competing in the state wrestling tournament that gets underway today.
And at 6-4 ½ and 285 pounds, Buzzelli seems to have a lot of the rugged characteristics that you would want in a right tackle. He’s been the starter at right tackle since his sophomore season for the Grizzlies and he’s been a starter at defensive tackle during both of the past years as well.
“I’ve made a lot of progress with strength and fixing mental errors, I’ve fixed a lot of them,” Buzzelli said. “I’ve just made a lot of progress, I think, and my coaches have seen it too.”
Buzzelli himself claims to be more of an offensive player than he is a defensive one.
“I play well on offense and I do okay on defense,” he said. “I’m more of an offensive player than a defensive player. But I do my job on both sides of the ball and I do what’s asked.”
He’s been wrestling for a long time and he’s been pretty good at that sport as well.
“I’ve been wrestling ever since the third grade. It’s a sport that I’ve always just loved,” Buzzelli said. “A couple of coaches of my friends got me going into it and I didn’t do too well because of my size my first couple of years because there weren’t that many opponents.”
But it’s that size that may have actually benefited his progress as a wrestler early on.
“After 8th grade I couldn’t wrestle in middle school so I had to wrestle with the high schoolers and I guess that extra year gave me a jump on everybody else,” said Buzzelli when he spoke with Bucknuts prior to the start of his wrestling season back in November. “In my freshman year I went to states and in my sophomore year I placed fourth at states and I’m hoping for even more progress this year.”
He obviously has a passion for wrestling and it works well as an off-season workout for football.
“I think it’s both a passion and a workout because I love football and wrestling about equal,” Buzzelli said. “They’re just two sports that I love to play and I couldn’t say anything else about them except that they’re the best sports that any guy could play.”
Buzzelli, who’s obviously done well for himself already in his wrestling career at Wadsworth, has also been a more than capable performer on the gridiron up to this point. He certainly had a solid junior campaign, especially on offense.
“I did pretty well. The blocking percentages were in the higher ranges and I just put forth effort and that’s all that you can do,” he said. “You can’t teach effort, you’ve just got to put forth it.”
Wrestling and football seem to go hand-in-hand for Buzzelli who obviously has the right mindset and the physical size to do well in both sports.
“It’s not just about being strong you have to be mentally strong too,” he said. “You can’t break under pressure. The clock’s ticking and you have a few seconds left and you’ve got to show everybody what that last effort is going to do. And you just push through it and show them what you’re made of.”
Although he would admittedly love to win a state championship in wrestling, Buzzelli is not about to make any bold statements about accomplishing that.
“I’m a little superstitious about that. I don’t like saying that I’m going to win it,” said Buzzelli in November. “It’s not about saying you’re going to win something it’s about doing it. I like putting forth the effort and being called the underdog and coming back and showing everybody that I can do what they say I can’t.
“As a freshman they said that I wasn’t going to make it past sectionals and I made it all the way to states. And then the next year they said that I probably wasn’t going to place in the top 10 and I got fourth place in the states. So it’s the doubt that they place on you that makes me driver harder.”
And now that he’s made it to the state tournament once again, his ultimate goal seems to be rather conservative.
“(I) just want to wrestle my match as well as I can and just be all that I can be,” said Buzzelli while en route to the state tournament on I-71 on Thursday evening. “In the end I’m hoping that I can bring home a state title but anybody’s hope that is going to state is to bring home a title. I just think that one person has to want it more than the other and I think that I’ve worked hard enough to earn it and we’ll find out.”
Momentum seems to be going his way as he enters the state meet.
“I’m 38-4 right now and the matches that I lost, I’ve lost three times to (Jeremy) Johnson and twice was earlier on in the season,” Buzzelli said. “Just recently I lost to him in the sectionals but then I beat him at the districts. And the fourth time that I lost was earlier on in the season too against (James) Meder and I think I’ve improved a lot since then.”
Despite the loss in sectionals, Buzzelli seems confident going into the state tourney.
“I’m pretty confident that I’ll do pretty well,” he said. “I have a sense of urgency. I can’t wait to be there. It’s awesome to be a part of such a great event.”
And Buzzelli is wrestling for more than just himself this weekend.
“It’s not only important to me but it’s also important to the team because we’re going down there not just for individual awards but for a team award,” he said. “We’re hoping to come in first place and win the state championship for the whole team. And I definitely need to perform well to help the team achieve that championship.”
And if something good in football comes from his wrestling prowess being on display at the state tournament then good for him. But he’s not really concerned with that right now.
“I’m just kind of in the mode of wrestling,” he said on the eve of the tournament. “People can watch and say what they want to say but it all comes down to myself when I’m out there on the mat. I got to wrestle my match and I can’t worry about anybody else by thinking about it.”
If Ohio State is intrigued with Buzzelli at all then they’ll certainly know where to find him this weekend. The Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of OSU is hosting the three-day event.
“I’ve talked to them. I call them every once in a while,” said Buzzelli who attended Ohio State’s camp last summer. “I’ve been invited to go their summer camp this year but that’s about it. And they told me some of the practice dates (this spring) and they said it would be great if I can attend some of them.”
One way or another, it’s easy to see that Buzzelli has all the right stuff to be successful in whatever path he takes when he graduates from Wadsworth. He currently has about a 3.3 GPA.
“(I’m dreaming of) a division I scholarship in either football or wrestling. Whatever is going to get me there,” said Buzzelli back on that cold day at Wadsworth High School in early November. “I’m just going to keep working harder. And I want to be a teacher so I already have my major picked out, but I just know that I want to be a division I athlete.”
And if the Buckeyes should ever decide to show some serious interest in Buzzelli, they’d automatically be in good standing with the two-sport standout. He attended Ohio State’s spring game last year along with the Youngstown State and Penn State games at Ohio Stadium this past season. Ohio State has been one of his favorite schools all along.
“I’ve always been an Ohio State fan ever since I was a kid,” said Buzzelli. “Born and raised, that’s how it was.”