By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — For Covington 138-pound senior Ryan Ford there is one goal on his final weekend of wrestling — to finish at the top of the podium at the OHSAA individual state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center and cap his career with a state championship.
“The goal is to win,” Ford said.
There is little else the Cleveland State signee hasn’t done in his four years at Covington.
After narrowly missing state with a fifth-place finish at district as a freshman, he has finished third at the state meet the last two years — he did it last year after losing his first match at state and coming all the way through the consolation bracket.
During last week’s district meet, he became the all-time wins leader at Covington and currently has a career record of 198-20.
With his 33rd takedown this season, he became the all-time leader in takedowns. The previous record was 680.
He also holds the single-season record for takedowns with 278 and his first three season all ranked in the top seven all-time.
Yet, last weekend at the district meet, Ford made a rare mistake that led to a loss in the quarterfinals.
As you might expect, he handled it like a champion.
He was in a position where he had to win three matches in a row just to get to state — instead he won four straight, two by pins, to finish third.
“Ryan (Ford) is a pretty confident wrestler,” Covington coach Tom Barbee said. “It was similar to what happened at state last year. He lost his first match and came back to go all the way through the consolation bracket and finish third.”
Not for one second did it enter Ford’s mind that his career was going to end at the district tournament.
“I never should have lost that match (in the quarterfinals),” Ford said. “I was pretty confident I was still going to finish third.”
And unlike some, Ford will not be awed with the environment of the state tournament.
“Even last year, I felt more comfortable than the year before,” Ford said. “I think it get easier every year.”
Barbee said that is a big part of it when you get to state.
“I think because that is the biggest crowd they wrestle in front of all year,” Barbee said.
Ford, 44-7 this season, said he doesn’t spend that much time looking at the bracket.
He will open against 21-7 Jake Farley of Galion Northmor when the D-III first round gets underway at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“I look at it,” he said. “But, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on it. Because, then you start thinking ahead.”
One thing that is different this year is Ford is the lone Bucc wrestling at state.
“There were some other guys whose matches just didn’t go there way,” he said. “Definitely, I do (feel like he is representing Covington). They have had a state placer for a number of straight years — I don’t even know how many — I hope I can keep that streak going.”
Barbee is confident he can.
“It would be great if Ryan (Ford) could finish on the top of the podium,” Barbee said. “There is a fine line when you get to state (from first to third), but I think he can do it. And even if he doesn’t, we will be just as proud of him.”
Ford has already earned that — and looks to add state champion to his long list of accomplishments this weekend.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.