The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

March 19, 2014

2013-14 Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County Wrestling: Going the distance

State champion Kyle Conel of Lakeside once again sets the standard

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Lakeside senior Kyle Conel has been on a bit of a magic-carpet ride over the last couple years. It’s a ride, however, that began with a depressing low.

“My sophomore year, I lost the match to go to state in overtime,” the son of Luetta Miller and Otis Conel said. “After that, I said I wasn’t to fall short again. My goal the next year was to get to state and place. After that, you know what happened.”

Conel did anything but fall short with a 46-1 season in which he was state runner-up as a junior in earning Star Beacon Ashtabula County Wrestler of the year. He did himself one better as a senior to earn the award for a second time.

On his way to the Division I state championship at 195 pounds, Conel was 53-0.

“It’s been awesome,” the Kent State signee said. “There were a lot of ups, a few downs. It’s been an awesome career and I’m ready to move forward.”

That loss in the district tournament during his sophomore campaign may have been the biggest driving force in Conel reaching the top of the podium just 2 years later, though his lone loss as a junior was in the state finals.

“That’s a hard question,” he said. “I know it was the state finals last year, but my sophomore year, I was just on the brink of hitting state – not even placing, just getting there. I think that hit harder than last year did because I know as a sophomore, I could have worked harder. Last year, I knew I worked as hard as I could have.”

Conel was 165-21 in his 4-year career, including a 99-1 mark in his last 100 matches. Those kinds of numbers can make a wrestler feel almost invincible.

“I don’t necessarily think I’m bulletproof, but I go out with the mentality that if I do what I’m supposed to, I’ll win the match,” he said.

Confidence like that comes from one place and one place, only.

“That comes from my training,” Conel said. “I have confidence in my training. I know if I train correctly and practice the correct techniques, I should win.

“It’s hard to put into words.”

Throughout his run in Columbus, Conel had talked of leaving a legacy at Lakeside for the younger grapplers in the district to follow. Already, that has been happening. Junior high wrestler Jacob Lagoa has set his sights on Conel and is trying to follow in his footsteps.

“I’m not necessarily proud, but it makes me very excited to see what he does and what some of the others around the county do,” Conel said. “There’s a lot of potential (in the area), really. I hope (Lagoa, who had said he wanted to win more state titles than Conel) does win more.”

Of course, Conel didn’t reach his dreams without the support of those close to him. In Columbus, after his arm was raised, he pointed to them in the stands, acknowledging their contributions.

“It’s important to have somebody there watching you in Columbus at the state tournament,” he said. “(Hearing them be so loud) is almost like having a home match, especially when it’s a big group of people.

“When I won that last match, they got me going a little bit.”

In those moments, Conel had one thought.

“All I could think about was that I was 2014 state champion,” he said. “That’s all I could think of. It was an awesome ride. It’s the best way I could top off my career.”

There were a few coaches in Conel’s corner along the way.

“They’ve meant a lot to me,” Conel said. “They’ve done a lot for me – a lot more than any other coach would’ve done, especially (former coach) Jerry (Brady). He’s a phenomenal coach and mentor to me. He’s a great role model.

“The way things happened (with Brady being fired during the season), I can’t change it and I have to take it stride. Though he wasn’t on the mat, he was still with me. He never stopped supporting me.”

The man who took over for Jerry Brady was his brother, Jim. He was the perfect man to take over for the senior, Conel said.

“With any person except Jim, we would have had some conflicts,” Conel said. “Luckily, Jim and I were on the same page. I had a great time with him as my coach.”

There is little rest for Conel, though his Lakeside career has run its course.

“I’m training for FloNationals, which are in a few weeks,” Conel said. “Jerry’s taking me. I’m thinking about freestyle and maybe trying to do Nationals.

“After that, it’s getting ready for Kent.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at bettinger@starbeacon.com.

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