Watkins wrestling’s Marek has eyes set on state berth

Watkins wrestling’s Marek has eyes set on state berth

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Watkins wrestling’s Marek has eyes set on state berth

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The state wrestling tournament is three months away, but Dean Marek does not want to waste a minute of the season.

Watkins Memorial has revamped its schedule, traveling to three of the state’s four corners in hopes of finding the best competition possible. Marek, a junior, has seen his season end in the Division I district tournament the past two seasons.

“Truthfully, I just want better competition,” said Marek, who will wrestle anywhere from 126 to 138 pounds. “I want to see where I am at compared to other kids that were in the same position last year. I want to see if I can make it to the state meet. Obviously, that’s my goal.”

Marek will not simply be a weekend warrior. Some of his best work will come in the practice room.

Senior Andrew Lieb has been to where Marek wants to reach. Lieb was a state qualifier a year ago, finishing 2-3 and placing eighth at 132. Jacob Maynard, a district qualifier at Northridge a year ago, and sophomore Andrew Cornelius also are in the mix at the light middleweights.

“Having those two great kids definitely helps all three of us get better during the season,” Marek said.

Watkins opens the season Friday in a dual at Gahanna. The Warriors participate in the East Side Duals at New Albany on Dec. 10. Their first tournament is at North Canton Hoover on Dec. 19 and continuing the next day.

Watkins coach Mark Kurth said no schedule is perfect, but he does not mind the duals and extra practice time early in the season. The Warriors are particularly deep at the middleweights, so it will take time for the lineup to shake out.

“We might have some guys that wrestled varsity a good bit last year that may not be in the lineup because they’ve grown,” Kurth said. “We are kind of heavy around 132 and 138, so there are some guys in there that are decent wrestlers who may not make a varsity lineup. You never know. It is just going to make the room better.”

Lieb certainly should be entrenched in one of those spots. Like Marek this season, he went into the 2013-14 season having twice qualified for the district tournament. This past winter, he got over the hump with a victory in a do-or-die match at the district meet.

Lieb was Watkins’ first state placer since 2010. Also being the defending Licking County League at 132, he has a target on his back.

“Nothing’s guaranteed, and I keep reminding him that,” Kurth said. “You still have to work hard. There are going to be people trying to knock you off.”

Andrew’s brother Alex had a strong freshman season, winning twice in the district tournament at 106. He likely will be at 113 this winter. Sophomore Jarod Taggart and freshman Alec Fulwider are among the candidates to replace Alex Lieb at 106, and junior Dylan Destadio has varsity experience and could be at 120.

Juniors Robert Speaks and Matt Kennedy appear slated for 152 and 160, and sophomores Max Boyd and Kyle Clark should battle for 170 and 182. Junior Marvin Bennett could fill the void at 195, and Jack May brings back experience at 220. Junior Keith Woods is in the mix at heavyweight.

If Watkins, which has more than 20 freshmen and sophomores, can stay healthy and continue fill all of the classes, the Warriors should improve on their fourth-place LCL finish.

With Andrew Lieb being the only senior, Marek already is seeing the importance of stepping up and being a leader. The Warriors will need teamwork to add more hardware to their individual medals.

“You have to make sure that everyone is involved in everything you do,” Marek said. “It is a very individual sport. You go out there and win your match, and four or five other kids could ruin your entire night. You have to stay supportive of everybody that goes out there.”

ksnyder@gannett.com

740-328-8556

Twitter: @newarkurt

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