By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
COVINGTON — Ryan Ford had been waiting his entire life for one moment last year.
Ford — a dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fanatic who has wrapped a significant portion of his life around the sport, was all set to earn his place at the state championships last season as a freshman on the Covington wrestling team.
And that’s when it all fell apart.
Ford was on the cusp of realizing his dream last season at the district wrestling tournament. By placing fourth or better, Ford would have had his ticket punched to Columbus and the opportunity to compete in the Division III state wrestling championships.
Just when it appeared he was on his way, however, Ford suffered a pair of 1-0 defeats and ended up in fifth place at districts — one spot away from that coveted trip to state.
This weekend, as Ford and all 12 of his teammates head into the district tournament, he’s determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Ford was dominant last week in capturing a sectional title at 132 pounds and raising his record to 42-1 this season.
“Last year was really frustrating,” Ford said. “I expected to do well at districts and then at state. It’s been very motivating for me. It’s something I think about a lot — pretty much every day.”
Which comes as no surprise to Covington coach Tom Barbee.
“Wrestling is his life,” Barbee said of Ford. “He’s a kid who lives and dies by wrestling. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s wrestled his whole life in tournaments all over the country. He got his heart broke last year, losing a pair of matches by one point. I know he’s focused hard on this year — he’s a very focused kid.”
Ford, who has grown up wrestling with club and youth programs in national tournaments from a very young age, stepped up his game this offseason, wrestling in tournaments not only Ohio, but in Florida, Virginia and Michigan.
“I wrestle pretty much every day all year,” Ford said.
Not only has Ford picked up added experience, Barbee said, but he’s also made a few style changes that should serve him well at districts and — should he advance — at the state meet.
“He’s wrestling with a little different style this year,” Barbee said. “Last year as a freshman, he was looking to take everybody down and then kick him out. This year he’s really focused on working harder on the top and bottom. He’s still getting a lot of takedowns, but he’s also rode a lot of people and gotten way better working from the bottom.
“The neat thing about him is he’s such a coachable kid. When you tell him to do something in practice, he really listens and tries to do it. He’s really fun to coach.”
With all of that in place, Ford set some lofty goals for himself this season.
“My goals this year were to finished in the top three at the Holiday Tournament (he finished second), win districts and win state,” he said. “I think those are pretty achievable goals.”
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong