PATASKALA – Andrew Lieb climbed over the district hump and finished his junior season on the podium at the state wrestling meet.
So is the pressure off the Watkins Memorial senior? Not quite.
“I feel like the pressure’s on now because I’ve done it once and have to do it again,” Lieb said. “It’s nice having that experience of knowing what it is going to be like because I know for a fact when I walked (out at the state tournament) for the first match I was a little surprised at how big the venue was.”
Luckily, Lieb has the broad shoulders to carry the weight of expectations, and it is just the nature of the beast. He has faced high-caliber competition across the state this season in hopes of having the opportunity to improve on that eighth-place state finish from 2014.
“I have lost more this year, but the losses are more beneficial,” Lieb said. “The harder tournaments and better competition are just getting me ready for the end of the year. I am glad we changed the schedule a little bit.”
Before beginning their postseason trek, Lieb and his teammates will attempt to win the Licking County League crown Saturday at Licking Valley. The host Panthers are expected to be the Warriors’ biggest challengers.
Watkins won a dual against Valley in late January. A week later, the Panthers edged out the Warriors for runner-up honors in the Watkins Invitational.
“We were the underdogs in that dual, and we just wrestled awesome,” sophomore Alex Lieb said. “There is no other way to say it. We cheer each other on. I think the unity of the team is a lot better this year. We are more of a family to be honest with you.”
The Lieb brothers did their part in the Watkins Invitational. Alex Lieb won his second consecutive tight match with Valley’s Addison Fogle, this time beating Fogle in the final seconds.
On Saturday, Alex Lieb could see Fogle again, Lakewood’s Ray Huber or Northridge’s Jake Adkins, a two-time state placer, in what should be one of the most competitive classes in the tournament. Alex Lieb will not back down from any challenge after navigating a regular-season schedule that included elite tournaments in Canton, Marion and Dayton.
“The schedule from last year to this year is night and day,” said Alex Lieb, who was a district qualifier in 2014. “I think I was 15 wins in last year before I had my first loss, and it was five this year. The competition that we had this year was hands down tougher. It is going to pay off in the end. I think I am going to be a lot more successful.”
The Warriors won a pair of duals Feb. 12 against Bishop Hartley and Thomas Worthington. Winning twice on the mat were Dean Marek (126) and Andrew Lieb and Mason Robinson, who each won one apiece at both 132 and 138.
Winning once on the mat were Alec Fulwider (106), Alex Lieb (113), Dante Fair (145), Robert Speaks (152), Matt Kennedy (160), Max Boyd (170) and Marvin Bennett (182).
Watkins’ final tuneup comes Thursday when Granville visits for a dual. The Blue Aces are the defending LCL champions, but they have been depleted this season because of graduation and injury.