COLUMBUS — Camron Neal, the 106-pound junior wrestler from Preble Shawnee, became the Arrows’ first state placer in two decades.
He finished seventh overall in the Division III state tournament, making the podium at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus over the weekend of March 3-5.
Neal, who is a man of few words, offered up a simple answer on how it feels to be the school’s first state placer since 1996.
“It feels good,” he said with a smirk.
But the road wasn’t easy for Neal. He was pinned in the second period of his very first match at state.
“The nerves got the best of him when he first came here, walking through that tunnel, it’s a big deal for anybody. Camron is a quiet type of guy so it’s a lot of emotions, a lot of crowd around you coming down,” said Shawnee head coach Jake Follick. “I pulled him aside after the first one and told him to walk back out there and look around for 15 or 20 seconds. Take it all in. Put your nerves beside you. That match was a winnable match for us. He wrestled a great tournament. It’s a huge deal for our program.”
After he got stuck during the first round, Neal regrouped himself – “I ate food,” he said – and calmed his nerves.
He earned a 16-0 technical fall in the first round of the consolation bracket before getting an 8-1 win in the second round.
“We got the nerves out of him. We knew we could wrestle with that kid,” said Follick. “I told him ‘It’s the same wrestling mat, same rules, everything is the same. It’s just a different venue. You just go out and wrestle the way you know how.’”
Neal was pinned in the consolation quarterfinals, sending him to the seventh place match, where he won 9-6.
This is the first year Follick has been in the program and for he, Neal, and the rest of the Arrows, he hopes this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“I expect big things. I expect a lot more guys in here and I expect you to have to interview a lot more guys in here. That’s where we want to go. We want bigger and better things,” he said. “We are happy with what we got, but seventh place wasn’t what we shot for here – we wanted higher. I’m certainly happy with it, we’ll take it, but we’ll progress on it for sure.”
Neal ends the year 40-7 overall, with a second place finish at Blanchester High School in the sectional tournament and third place in the district tournament at Hobart Arena in Troy.
Reach Jeremy at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.