BEREA — When Justin “Bo” Ransom wrestled in high school, Baldwin-Wallace was one of the schools to recruit him.
But Ransom had other thoughts and headed elsewhere.
The winding road has led the Madison graduate to Berea and a spot in the Division III national tournament at Public Auditorium in Cleveland Friday and Saturday.
Ransom, a junior, qualified for the the nationals with a third-place finish at 174 pounds during the Central Region in Crawfordsville, Ind. last weekend.
In making his first trip to the national tournament, Ransom opened with a win over Case Western Reserve’s Nick Tommas by pinfall in 1:17, followed by a 4-1 decision over Ohio Northern’s Clayton Davidson.
After losing 9-4 to Wabash’s Darden Schurg in the semifinals, he picked up a 10-2 major decision over John Carroll’s Vittorio Santillo and a 7-2 decision over Davidson to earn his national spot.
“I was the fifth seed going in and the top three placers advance,” Ransom said. “I felt confident in my draw. I never get caught up in the highs and lows.”
Even when he posted a spot in the nationals, Ransom didn’t get too caught up with the moment.
“I said, ‘I did it, this is what I trained for,’” he said. “My goal is to be a national qualifier and national champion.”
Ransom was one of nine Yellow Jackets, who as the No. 6 team won the Central Regional championship, to reach the nationals.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We train to perform and get on the podium and hope that momentum carries over to the national tournament.”
It wasn’t an easy road to nationals for Ransom, who is 26-10 on the season. He missed the month of December, dealing with three ear procedures.
“The doctor said that in his 30 years, it’s the worst ear he’s seen,” Ransom said.
Upon his return, Ransom admitted he was a little sluggish.
“My first tournament was the national duals (in Fort Wayne, Ind. on Jan. 4 and 5) and I won a match and lost to a top-eight competitor,” he said. “I just got better and worked harder to be where I needed to be.”
Ransom said the coaching staff gave him a big boost in confidence.
“We’re big on conditioning and the coaches (Jamie) Gibbs and (Jason) Zastrow did a good job of reassuring me that ‘this is fine, if anyone who misses a month can get on the podium, it’s Bo Ransom.’ When I was cleared, I was ready to go.”
Gibbs, the head coach, said dealing with adversity is one of Ransom’s biggest strengths.
“He’s a tough kid,” Gibbs said. “The best thing about Bo is he doesn’t get too high or too low. Everything happens for a reason and that gave him the opportunity to try and get better in other areas. He’s an extremely coachable kid.”
Ransom qualified for state at Madison in 2013 and 2014, placing fifth in 2014, and took those learning tools to the collegiate level.
“My former coach Ryan Wertenberger pushed us a lot,” Ransom said. “He put in a good fundamental background for me.”
Ransom decided to branch out and attend Division II Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C. for school and to wrestle.
“I wanted to get out of the state of Ohio,” he said.
But having to deal with a family situation, Ransom transferred to Lake Erie College, in Painesville, and wrestled.
“There were some health issues in my family and I needed to come home,” he said. “My Dad (Ted Ransom) was diagnosed with cancer. I needed to focus on him. My heart and desire wasn’t what it used to be.”
From there, he attended Kent State Ashtabula.
“I was there for a day,” he said. “A former wrestler at BW said, ‘Why don’t you wrestle for BW?’ Coach Gibbs recruited me in high school.”
Ransom joined the Yellow Jackets program, but wasn’t guaranteed any mat time.
“We had a returning starter who helped build our program,” Gibbs said. “Bo had to earn his position, nothing is given. He earned the position last year, then he had to earn the position this year. Bo has become one of our more consistent performers.”
He finished the 2016-17 season with a 20-7 record at 174 pounds. Ransom recorded five pins and one technical fall and compiled 48 take downs, 37 escapes, five reversals and nine total near falls in earning his first varsity letter.
Gibbs said Ransom is ready for his first national tournament.
“His best wrestling is what he’s doing now,” Gibbs said. “He’s not content with just being there, he has high goals.”
And the ‘there’ is Cleveland, so this is essentially a home match for Ransom.
“I know I’ll have family and friends there,” he said. “It’s a business trip for me. They’ll understand if I’m not hanging around them.”
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Ransom knows he has one more year left to wrestle.
“As another year will come for, the sky is the limit,” he said. “With the coaching staff, I can’t see why I can’t be where I want to be.”