Chris Block has put on about 40 pounds since he graduated from Johnstown.
It has allowed him to get on the mat with the Johnnies’ current standout Clayton Bullard. Block, who was a two-time state placer, frequently spars with the unbeaten Bullard. Who wins?
Bullard said they do not keep score. It is unlikely Block has any interest in letting the student win.
“We do a drill match where we fight for the takedown,” Bullard said. “We do a whole match, but we don’t keep score.”
Where Block would not mind seeing Bullard pass him is at the Division II state tournament in March. Johnstown has had seven state placers since 2005, but nobody has finished higher than Block’s fifth in ’09.
Block entered the state tournament his senior year unbeaten. Bullard is entering the postseason with a spotless record after beating Licking Valley’s Blake Owens for the second time this season.
Bullard and Owens matched up in the 195-pound final of the Licking County League tournament Saturday at Licking Heights. Bullard controlled the action from the start.
“I always like wrestling really good competition, and Blake is some of the best competition that I have had this year by far,” Bullard said. “It was a fun week in practice waiting for it to happen.”
Owens got a rare takedown against Bullard to take a short-lived 4-3 lead in the second period, but Bullard answered back. Bullard had two near falls and won 13-5.
Bullard has beaten all challengers locally, and he made a statement on the state scene a week ago. Bullard won at New Lexington’s Jimmy Wood Invitational, beating St. Paris Graham’s Josh Couchman 11-2 in the final.
“Especially when you come from a small town like Johnstown and a small and not-so-known wrestling program, to stand next to and above a couple St. Paris Graham guys or (Lakewood St. Edward’s) kids, that is really fun,” Bullard said.
In 2013, Bullard placed sixth at 195 in Division III. He returns to the postseason at 195, but he is up in Division II. His journey to the state meet begins with the sectional Feb. 15 at Madison Plains, but returning to the state meet will not be good enough.
Bullard has not been beaten yet, and he hopes to keep that perfect record in tact. Block certainly would love to step aside.
“I am always thinking about the state title,” Bullard said. “I want to be on top of the state podium this year.”