COLUMBUS — Ben Sullivan just finished dominating his opponent 7-0 to become the first state wrestling champion in National Trail’s history on Saturday, March 5 in Columbus.
There were no fist pumps. No jumping up and down in celebration. No hugs given.
It was all business.
“Ben’s a little bit reserved. I think after this, when it’s his parents and us, he’ll be a little more emotional about it. But Ben looks at wrestling as – he is not done. This is one time. He has another year,” said head coach Michael Eyler. “To him, this is another match because there will be another one come next December.”
It was Sullivan’s third time placing at state, taking second his freshman year and third his sophomore year before reaching the top of the podium this time around.
“It feels good. I’ve been waiting for it for a while. Thank God I got it today,” said Sullivan. “I was really glad it ended a lot better than freshman year.”
In his freshman season, he was seconds away from being a state champ before he got flipped and pinned at the end of the match. He made sure that wouldn’t happen this time around.
“I just tried not to make stupid mistakes. My freshman year, I did something stupid. I tried not to do it again. It turned out well,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan opened the weekend with a near loss, though. He got down 6-0 in his first match of the tournament before re-gathering himself and earning a pin in the final round (5:46).
“The first match I came out a little cold. I wasn’t quite expecting that. I’m glad it happened then and not later,” he said.
He won his next match 3-2, going up against an opponent with a very similar style to his own – which was a first for Sullivan. But he left no doubt in the semifinals, winning the round 9-2 before shutting out Jerek Cropper from Akron Manchester in the finals.
Sullivan didn’t wrestle for much of the season but ended the year with an 18-1 record and a gold medal. His only loss was in overtime during the district tournament at Hobart Arena in Troy, where he took third overall. He was also the sectional tournament champion at Sidney Lehman Catholic High School.
“Tonight, I was just praying the whole time. It turned out well,” he said.
And for his head coach, it’s also been a long time coming for the junior. Sullivan is the most driven athlete he has ever coached, constantly pushing himself and working on his technique, said Eyler.
“I’ve always wanted to see that boy on the top of the podium. I’ve always had a lot of faith in him. He’s a fun kid to be around, he’s earned it. It makes me very proud to be a part of it,” he added.