No one will be to be referring to Matt Lee as a state qualifier anymore.
After Saturday afternoon, Lee is now a state placer, after finishing fifth in the Division I 285-pound state tournament.
“It feels great,” Lee said of placing. “It’s always been my goal, at least for this year, for sure. It’s a great feeling.”
It was the junior’s second time qualifying for the state tournament. In 2016, his sophomore year, Lee finished with a record of 1-2 at the tournament.
As is often the case with wrestlers at the state tournament, Lee admitted he was a little intimidated last year walking out of the tunnel into the lights and crowd of people at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
This time around, things were different.
“Having already been there was a huge advantage,” Lee said. “Going down there, the biggest thing is all of the lights and the people (when you walk out of the tunnel). This year I went down there and was determined. I wasn’t scared or frightened at all. I was just ready to go.”
Lee won his opening match of the state tournament with a pin of Mason’s Zaid Hamdan in 2:46 to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, he ran into Wadsworth’s Jordan Earnest.
“For about the first minute, it was pretty close match, but then after that things got pretty rough,” Lee said. “I kept pushing in and pushing in, and he (Earnest) hit a lightweight move on me. I wasn’t expecting it, so I didn’t prepare correctly for it. It threw me off, and then he pinned me.”
Lee won his next two matches and eventually finished the tournament with a 4-2 record. He won his fifth-place match, a rematch with Hamdan, by pin fall in just 59 seconds.
Having the title of state placer will be an advantage heading into his senior year, Lee said.
“It’s a huge confidence booster for me,” he said. “I placed this year, so my goal for next year is to win it all. I’ve got a title now and have made a name for myself, so I’m ready to go.”
Last month, Lee reached another milestone in his wrestling career when he won his 100th match during the Comets’ only home meet of the season.
“That’s been a goal of mine, as well,” he said. “Not a lot of people can get that. To get my 100th win in my junior year is a big accomplishment for me. It was also a big confidence booster with the state tournament coming up.”
Next season could be Lee’s year, as Elyria’s two-time state champion Kevin Vough will graduate this summer. With Vough now out of the way, the path to the state tournament, through the sectional and district titles, just got a little easier for Lee.
“My goal is definitely to go all the way. No one is in the way now,” he said. “I mean, Vough is a stud, so now that he’s gone, it’s definitely a big help.”
Wrestling season may now be over for Lee, but he’s already looking forward to his senior year in both wrestling and football.
“I’m kind of in football mode now,” he said. “Once football is over, I’m going to be ready for wrestling.”
Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.