Everybody’s been there. Your hair is standing on end, you can hardly breathe and it feels like you have just swallowed a bullfrog.
If Nick Tavanello could break ground, he’d build a house in pressure situations like that.
While most would rather sit in the shadows, the Wadsworth junior and 2011 Gazette MVP for wrestling embraces the heaviness.
“I’m a competitor,” Tavanello said. “Without that stress, what’s the point? I have to feed that competitiveness. My excitement comes in nervousness. I try to turn it into positive energy.”
Tavanello must have been real nervous this season, because the positives that came out of his junior year were immeasurable.
Try a state championship for the second year in a row at 215 pounds after beating St. Edward’s Ty Walz 5-2 in the finals. Try just one loss all season — by a single point — and a Medina County-leading 29 pins.
But take it a step further for the three-time state placer.
In winning his second title, Tavanello joins Brad Squire (Wadsworth 2010, 2007), Richie Spicel (Brunswick, 2008, 2005), Jesse Leng (Highland, 1998-99), Bobby Jones (Wadsworth, 1996-97), Richard Burton (Highland, 1981-82) and Don Tomko (Highland, 1970-71) as the only two-time state champions from the county.
No one has ever done it three times, which is what Tavanello will be out to accomplish as a senior.
“He’s got natural power, which is great because he’s a natural athlete,” Medina coach Chad Gilmore said. “A lot of big guys don’t have what he does. He has the agility of a lightweight and the strength of a heavyweight. That’s hard to beat.
“He’s a warrior. He wants to win at all costs. He won’t stop. Some of the scrambles I’ve seen with him are amazing. He uses his athletic ability to be the best in every match.”
Tavanello, who went 48-1 this year, isn’t afraid to lose.
The 215-pounder has racked up a 95-3 record the last two seasons, but it’s those three defeats that have made him a better wrestler.
This season, his lone defeat came in the semifinals of the Ironman Tournament. It happened in overtime against the No. 5 wrestler in the nation in Tank Knowles of Calvary Chapel, Calif. The final score read 3-2 in a hotly contested bout, but it was a match that gave Tavanello even more character.
“I wrestled with the Squires when I was young and Mr. Squire would say, ‘If my son isn’t getting beat, I’m not wrestling at the right places,’” Tavanello said. “In losing (at the Ironman), I’m wrestling in the right place. I have my goals for high school. I wanted to be a four-time state champ. I didn’t get it my freshman year. Now, I can be a three-time champion.”
Believe it when Tavanello says he can get it done. Winning three state titles at 215 has only been done once in state history, by St. Edward’s Matt Koz. Winning three titles at 215 or higher has only been done twice, Belmont Union Local’s Koel Davia being the other.
Unless something quirky happens, Tavanello believes he will be the third.
“That will drive me,” he said. “To know I’ll need to reinstate myself next year will push me. It’s something I thrive off of.
“If you look at the situation I was in my sophomore year, I had my individual title and Wadsworth’s state team title on the line. It helped me. I turned all that negative energy I was feeling and took it into my match. I’m not going to lose because this is what I want.”
As for his place in history, Tavanello is already rewriting the record books in the county.
With 137 wins, he’s only 33 from tying the area record held by former Grizzly and NAIA national champion Derek Foore.
His 16 career tournament victories prove he’s as solid as they come and his future is even brighter.
“To be able to coach someone like that, it’s like a dream come true,” Wadsworth mentor John Gramuglia said. “He’s the real deal. He’s going to get a lot better. Last year, he knew he could win. This year, he dominated. Next year, he’ll crush it.
“It’s one of those things — unless there’s an injury — he won’t be touched. There are just some kids ahead of their game and ahead of the curve. He’s one of them.”
Contact Brad Bournvial at firstname.lastname@example.org.