AKRON — It might have been a piece of gym equipment that cost Elyria freshman Kevin Vough a national championship Sunday morning.
“I broke my treadmill and haven’t been able to get in a good workout all month,” Vough said. “I guess I put too many miles on it.”
The light moment was tough for Vough to come up with after a disappointing final at the FILA Cadet Nationals at the University of Akron.
The Pioneers heavyweight dropped a 9-4 decision to Iowa’s Jake Marnin in the 125-kilogram title match. Marnin, who captured national titles in Greco and freestyle last summer in Fargo, N.D., put Vough in a deep hole in the first period, pushing Vough out of bounds twice and hitting a four-point move on the edge of the mat to take a quick 6-0 lead.
“(Vough) has been getting a lot of points on pushouts,” said Erik Burnett, Vough’s coach at Elyria High and during the offseason. “But when you go up against a guy who has a good feel for when a guy’s pushing against him too much and he knows how to throw, things like that are going to happen.”
Vough finally managed to push Marnin out of the circle for a late point before the end of the first period, then scored another pushout and a takedown to pull within 6-4 midway through the second.
But the furious pace Vough was using to rally began to take its toll, and as the energy began to wane, Marnin took advantage with a pushout and a late takedown for a 9-4 victory.
“Adrenalin can be your best friend or it can be a nightmare,” Burnett said.
“I didn’t see what kind of workout he put in before the match. But I haven’t seen many kids that have a gas tank like him … he never stops. So I think it might have been a case of adrenaline getting the best of him.”
Vough began the day with a methodical shutout win over Florida’s Dante Jiovenetta in his pool final. A pair of textbook takedowns was more than enough to spark a 5-0 victory over an opponent that pinned Vough last year in Fargo and had just pulled out a one-point win in the Greco tournament Friday.
“I always try to do my best against guys who’ve beat me in the past,” Vough said. “After I lose I look at what I did wrong, a coach will usually explain it to me, and then I work hard to fix it during practice.”
Vough has long had the physical skills — strength, technique and endurance among them — but has recently been honing his mental edge.
“It really started last year when he wanted to start watching film,” Elyria High assistant coach Jack Gillespie said. “He’s started to make mental adjustments as well as changing things physically … he’s really working hard now on the mental aspect of the sport.”
Vough has managed to avenge nearly every loss on his record … which could be bad news for Marnin.
“(Vough) got in on the guy’s leg several times during the first period and he just couldn’t finish,” Burnett said. “I think he might have shied away from a leg attack the rest of the match because of that.
“But he lost to a good guy. That kid’s really good.”
Vough recognized the issue — “I have to finish my shots,” he said — when asked what he’ll work on before his next meeting with Marnin. He also said there’s plenty to do before next month’s national duals in Florida and the USA Wrestling nationals in Fargo in July.
“I have to start working harder,” he said. “I have to get up earlier. I have to train longer. I have to push myself harder in the weight room. I have to do everything I can to make sure I do my best the next time.”
Vough — Elyria’s second FILA national runner-up after Steve Mitcheff accomplished the feat in 2007 — was able to end the day on a good note. He was immediately challenged by third-place finisher Thomas Helton of Illinois — due to the two not meeting earlier in the event — in a “true second” match.
Vough handed Helton an 11-0 technical fall in just over a minute.
Vough, who is now a four-time All-American after finishing in the top six in Greco and freestyle this weekend, defeated New York’s Garyn Huntley by an 11-1 technical fall in his pool play opener Saturday.
“What’s really working for him right now is his motion and his combos,” Burnett said. “He’s putting multiple moves together and that’s paying off. He tries one move, and if that doesn’t work he goes right into another, and another.
“Any kid that aspires to do the things he wants to do is an inspiration to me and our coaching staff. Kevin is at a place where he’s ready to challenge for a national title. That makes coaching him a lot of fun.”