Jesse Campbell didn’t have any reason to believe he’d be anywhere but Cleveland State this fall, but Ohio State gave him a couple of good ones after the Black River heavyweight captured the Division III state wrestling championship in March.
Campbell, who had said throughout his senior season that he had the Vikings at the top of his list, downed nationally known Cameron Wade from Chanel in an emotional overtime victory to come away with his first state title in three trips to Columbus.
Shortly after, the Buckeyes came calling.
“They never really talked to me until after the state tournament,” Campbell said. “That shows me that they are only after the best people out there to help them improve their wrestling team.”
One of the things Campbell was worrying about was the rigors of collegiate studies and how he’d handle the pressures of higher learning.
“Ohio State really pushes you to do well academically — wrestling comes second,” Campbell said. “They have a tracking program to see how you’re doing in your classes and they set up mandatory study hall hours to help you keep your grades up.”
But the frosting on the cake was Buckeyes assistant coach Tommy Rowlands, a two-time NCAA heavyweight champion at Ohio State and a 2008 Olympic hopeful, who will be Campbell’s personal coach.
“I think it was seventh grade or so when I saw him wrestle for the first time,” Campbell said. “My dad was officiating a match at Cleveland State, and Ohio State was facing Cleveland State while we were there.
“Rowlands was wrestling a kid that was bigger than him but he beat him, and he beat him pretty bad.”
Campbell’s run over the past three years didn’t escape the attention of his future mentor.
“I got to watch Jesse a couple of times at the Schott(enstein Center),” Rowlands said. “The quality of wrestlers he’s beaten and competed with, you can tell he’s already got some great wrestling skills.”
There are several reasons that Ohio State and Campbell are a good fit. Campbell, an avid Buckeye fan, will immediately give Ohio State a solid competitor at heavyweight and offset the supposed coup of Penn State signing Wade. Campbell has beaten the future Nittany Lion in three of their five meetings and seems to be the one obstacle Wade can’t consistently hurdle.
“I think it will continue to be a great rivalry but there are already several good heavyweights in the Big Ten that Jesse and Wade will have to worry about first,” Rowlands said.
Rowlands admitted that Ohio State’s signing of Campbell was good for the program but also somewhat of a bonus for him.
“I’m training for the Olympic Games this year so to have a workout partner of that quality is going to help me out a lot,” said Rowlands, who was a four-time All-American at Ohio State. “Ideally, I want Jesse to develop into a premier wrestler on the national stage.
“It’s certainly flattering to hear a kid talk about you and the things that you’ve done. But I expect Jesse to come down to Columbus next year, make a name for himself and get people talking about him.”
Saints staying together
Southview seniors Matt Findley and Martin Cruz made their first trip to the state tournament last season. Now they will be traveling together to college, as both signed on to wrestle at Ohio Athletic Conference champion Heidelberg College.
Findley (160 pounds) is a two-time state qualifier and was the Lorain County wrestler of the year last season, while Cruz (103) earned the Saints’ Most Valuable Wrestler award.
Elyria Catholic heavyweight Tim Rankin, who placed sixth at state in Division III, will play football next season for Walsh College.
** St. Edward 189-pounder Chris Honeycutt, a North Ridgeville resident who captured the Division I state title, has signed on to wrestle at Edinboro College (Pa.), a nationally ranked Division I program.
** Amherst state-qualifying heavyweight Jon Warford will play football at the University of Dayton.
** Amherst state-qualifying 145-pounder Dom Jones will wrestle for Cleveland State next year.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.