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Walsh's Fields finishes the job, wins state title

By MICHAEL LEONARD Sports Editor Published: March 19, 2017 12:00 AM
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COLUMBUS -- There have been a lot of changes this year for Walsh Jesuit wrestling.

One constant, however, has been the excellence of junior 126-pounder Matt Fields throughout the season.

After reaching the 113-pound final last season in a bit of an upset, Fields was among the favorites in Division I at 126 this year, as the state wrestling tournament took place March 9 to 11 at Value City Arena in Columbus.

Fields' goal was simple: Finish one place higher than he had in 2016.

Fields did just that and he did it his way -- winning from the top position.

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Fields defeated Mason's Jaimen Hood 4-0 to win the Division 126-pound title. He won Walsh Jesuit's 47th state individual title, putting the Warrior one behind Maple Heights for third on the OHSAA's all-time championship list.

By himself, Fields earned 24.5 team points for Walsh, putting the Warriors in 20th place in the team race. Lakewood St. Edward won its 31st Division I team title with 151 points.

Fields said it was "a night and day difference" in his emotions from last year, when he lost to Elyria's Brandon Fenton in the final. Fenton was able to repeat as state champion, as he won the Division I title at 120 pounds.

"I tweaked a couple things, but I think the biggest thing for me was having experience at states," Fields said after the win. "I'm happy I was able to to do it."

Walsh coach David Zahoransky said Fields deserved the title.

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"He got better on his feet this year and has done everything we've asked of him," Zahoransky said.

Fields' calling card is his ability to put opponents on their backs from the top position, particularly by using tilts.

He showed off his tilt game in his opening match, turning Hilliard Bradley's Zander Elllison numerous times on his way to a 16-0 technical fall.

"I'm just taking it one match at a time," Fields said after the opener. "I've been working on being persistent in my moves. It took a couple times to turn him, but I stayed with it."

Fields' quarterfinal match was a much closer affair against Elyria's Joshua Breeding. Fields was unable to turn Breeding, but he scored a 3-1 win to advance.

Zahoransky wasn't worried after the match.

"He's wrestled really solid both times," Zahoransky said. "A 1-0 match is a big win here. Because he can ride so well, he can make small leads seem really big."

As it turned out, Breeding's point was the only point scored on Fields all weekend.

In the semifinal, Fields was back to his dominant self, beating Marysville's Derek Sharp 9-0 to win his way back to the final.

All signs were pointing to a showdown with St. Edward's Matt Kazimir in the final, but Hood pulled the upset by getting a takedown in the sudden victory period to win 6-4 in the other semifinal.

"We scouted [Hood] in the semifinal," Zahoranksy said. "We set up a game plan and Matt followed it perfectly."

"He was amazing on his feet," Fields said of Hood.

The game plan was for Fields to negate Hood's double-leg takedown and make sure that he could get out when Hood was on top, allowing Fields to work over Hood when he was on top.

Through two periods in the title match, the strategy worked perfectly. While Fields was unable to get a takedown, neither could Hood and Fields scored the only point in the first two periods with an escape.

Trailing 1-0, Hood chose to start the third period in the down position -- which caused the Walsh coaches to start cheering.

"We knew it was over," Zahoransky said.

Hood, however, nearly escaped. Fields had to hang on to his ankle in the first minute of the third period, before Hood went out of bounds.

"At that point, I knew I could finish it," Fields said.

It took several attempts, but Fields hit his tilt on Hood, holding him down for three backpoints.

"It finally happened," Fields said.

Fields kept Hood down for the remainder of the third, riding him out for a 4-0 win.

Fields said it was an honor for him to be among Walsh greats like Johnni DiJulius and Joe Heskett as a state champ.

"I'm so proud that my name is going to up their on [Walsh's wrestling room] wall with one next to it," Fields said.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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