St. Paul junior wrestler Cam Caizzo had a goal that most kids had when the season began in December: reach the state championships in Columbus.
But with a pair of wins last weekend at the Division III district at Lakota, things have changed for the 37-8 wrestler at 182 pounds.
“The goal at the beginning of the season was to work as hard as I could to get there,” Caizzo said. “But that’s changed. Now, I hope I can push it further and maybe take the goal to a spot on the podium.”
Caizzo advanced to state after placing second at 182 pounds at the district, and opens with a championship preliinary match against Creston Norwayne sophomore Kaden Kidd (42-7) shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus.
“It’s really a credit to all the work we’ve been doing in the practice room,” Caizzo said.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class at the district advanced to the state championships. But entering the 182-pound bracket, Caizzo was the ninth-ranked wrestler according to the borofanohio.net rankings.
He began district run with a 13-4 major decision over Delta’s Rollin Robinson, then drew Genoa’s Antonio Quezada — No. 8 in the state rankings — in the quarterfinals.
Caizzo pulled out a 2-1 decision over Quezada, then beat state No. 12 Mason Babcock (Archbold) in the semifinals with another narrow decision of 3-2. He won a stalling point penalty against Quezada, and rode out a first-period takedown to victory over Babcock.
That put him in the finals against the No. 7-ranked wrestler in the state, Carey’s Tanner May (44-2), who was able to put Caizzo on his back early in the second period at 2:35 for the pin.
“It was a lot of scrapping in both matches,” Caizzo said about his quarterfinal and semifinal wins. “Antonio beat me by a major earlier this year, so I knew going into this rematch it was going to take my all — and probably a little more. In the win over Babcock, I just feel like I was mentally prepared and was able to wrestle a smart match.
“When I beat Babcock, I was out of breath, but I knew I gave it my all and was going to state,” he added. “I gave Coach (Jesse) Gross a big hug right after. It was pretty special.”
Caizzo said this wrestling season has been an eye-opener. On top of his work at St. Paul every day, the standout running back in football spends his personal time sparring with Norwalk’s Gabe Phillips — a state qualifier in Div. II at 182 — and Norwalk assistant coach Chris Phillips, a former four-time state champion at Monroeville (2008-11).
“I’d have to say I’ve been putting in a lot more work, not just in practice, but doing more practices all over,” Caizzo said. “going up against Gabe and Coach Chris Phillips has helped me so much. I worked with him just (Sunday) morning after I wrestled yesterday. He takes time out of his day to meet with me and a couple other Norwalk wrestlers.”
While podium is the goal, one thing Caizzo learned — especially after May put him on his back in the second-period district title loss — is stay in the moment.
“I learned just from last weekend to keep attacking and never underestimate anyone,” he said. “You can never look too far ahead, or look ahead at all. Everything is a match-by-match process.”
After one year with no state representation, Caizzo is also proud to represent St. Paul in Columbus. Prior to last season, Derek Gross was a four-time state placer for the Flyers.
“I hope I can go down and represent my school well,” he said. “Derek Gross was a huge influence on me when I was a freshman. I watched him down there, and right then, I knew that was a goal for me as well.”