July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

D.J. Skiba will be a wrestling star in time

When you are a freshman on a varsity team, it’s all about waiting your turn.

Brunswick wrestler D.J. Skiba has done that and then some. While fans may not see him on the mat tonight at the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament at Garfield Heights, he’s a major reason why the Blue Devils are position to win the overall River Division title.

Brunswick’s D.J. Skiba owns a 4-0 record in Northeast Ohio Conference River Division action. Trouble is he competes in the same class as Josh Heil, one of the best 106-pound wrestlers in the state. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

With classmate Josh Heil currently holding on to the 106-pound position, Skiba has made the most of his opportunity when coach Mike Koshar decided to rework the lineup to give his team the best chance to win in its dual-meet schedule.

While it’s been a grueling process, Skiba has approached it as a learning experience.

“It’s been hard — very hard,” Skiba said. “At the beginning of the year, I was down on myself because I couldn’t score on Josh. As the year went on, I’ve improved so much. It’s been a real trip.”

Skiba spars with Heil, who currently is state-ranked and was runner-up at the Junior High State Tournament last season, and went 4-0 in NOC River Division matches as Brunswick claimed a piece of mythical regular-season league crown for the first time in five years. He also had a pair of wins at the Ken Briggs Memorial.

“I’m not surprised,” Koshar said. “He is a good wrestler that works hard. He just happens to be behind one of the best 106-pounders in the state. He would not only start for most teams, he would be very successful.”

Along with Heil, Skiba faces plenty of great competition in the practice room as junior Brett Thomas (113 pounds) and sophomore Nate Taylor (120) form an impressive workout team.

It’s a great luxury for Koshar, but something he’s hoping will balance out next year.

Skiba and Heil have known each other since elementary school, and the two have pushed each other to get better.

While Heil has the upper hand at the moment, Skiba has taken everything is stride in focusing on improving with every opportunity on the mat.

It hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve known Josh for six years now, and it’s been about three years since I started working with Josh,” said Skiba, who has wrestled for West Shore Wrestling Club up until this season. “It’s been real hard working with and hard getting along knowing how talented he is and how good he is. It’s a big learning experience, but he’s helped me out so much.”

The mature approach has impressed Koshar, who knows Skiba is going to be one to watch in upcoming years.

“Coming up through our youth program and wrestling with Josh, Brett and Nate has helped him,” Koshar said. “He is also a hard-working kid. He understands that he is a good wrestler, but just can’t beat Josh.

“He knows his role is to help us win dual meets, and he has been very successful in doing that. He also knows his time will come, and, in the meantime, he is just focusing on getting better.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.