The scene following the last blood-round match at the North Canton Hoover Division I District was symbolic of the struggle.
If a wrestler wins the consolation semifinal, he earns a berth to the state tournament. If he loses, he struggles with the what-ifs of almost reaching the goal.
After Jon Saville won his 285-pound match over Uniontown Lake’s Michael Mather, coaches had to carry the Brunswick senior off the mat.
Saville gave it all. He had nothing left.
Well, except for that state berth, which is a story in and of itself.
Two months ago, the thought of wrestling again was a dream after he broke his ankle at the Medina Invitational Tournament.
“The very next day, he said, ‘I’ll be back,’” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “He started his swimming with the boot on. From Day 1, there was no doubt in his mind that he was coming back.”
The workouts with coach Greg Seigler were intense. The pain was excruciating.
Dips in the pool turned into sessions of perseverance, but what hurt even worse than the rehab were the nights Brunswick had matches or competed in a tournament.
“That was probably the hardest part,” Saville said. “All the getting back in shape, all the swimming was tough, but watching them wrestle and me not being able to do anything, it hurts your pride. When you’re disabled, it just hurts.
“I think that’s what did it. I hated, hated, hated being crippled. It was the worst thing ever. Watching people succeed and I can’t even walk on my own, that’s what drove me to where I am now.”
Saville is a testament to just how hard an athlete works when he wants something. His first match Thursday comes against a district runner-up in Hilliard Darby’s Mo Debyan.
Debyan (39-8) has wrestled almost twice as many matches. Saville (19-6) will try to make up for that with heart.
“We knew he had it from Day 1,” Koshar said. “We just didn’t know how far he could dig down. We told him, ‘You’re going to have to get through on adrenaline and will and drive. It just comes down to how bad you want it,’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry. I want it.’
“At the end of the day, that was it. He just kept fighting through it. He gritted his teeth and got the job done.”
Saville’s first match back was only 11 days ago, so his stamina might not be up to snuff.
That said, it takes just three matches over two days to reach the state final, so it is possible.
“Jon is one of the nicest kids I know and a really hard worker,” three-time state runner-up and teammate Nick Kiussis said. “It’s really good to have him back and in the swing of things. He has a ton of heart. He’s got a lot of skill, but his heart is unbelievable.”
Now that the day of reckoning is near, don’t expect Saville to be content.
“It’s how bad you want it,” Saville said. “I just really wanted to go to state.
“It still hasn’t hit me. I can’t believe it. All four years, I’ve been working for this moment, and it’s finally here. I’m going to state. It still hasn’t set in. I can’t believe it. I’d do it all 10 times again if I knew I’d be here.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.