Blaze brothers put Perrysburg wrestling on the map

Photo by Rich Wagner

COLUMBUS — Because the 2020 state wrestling tournament was canceled, Perrysburg senior Joey Blaze won three state championships and did not get the chance to win four.

However, Blaze won his third the hard way — wrestling with an arm injury.

At 165 pounds, Blaze defeated Cincinnati LaSalle sophomore Carson Thomas (42-9), 9-3, to win a Division I state championship Sunday at the Schottenstein Center and finish a perfect 44-0 season, despite the injury.

“It’s about 70 (percent) all the time,” Blaze said. “There are times during the day when I can’t grab stuff, can’t do just basic things, but that’s what God had in store for me, so I can’t be angry.”

Meanwhile, his younger brother, Marcus Blaze, won his second straight state championship match by a 21-6 technical fall over Clay senior Micah Medina (23-5) at 120 pounds.

“It feels amazing,” Marcus said. “Been working hard every day, so it feels amazing to have that hard work pay off. It’s awesome because it’s one more step to that four state championship titles.”

Perrysburg coach Scott Burnett has been watching the Blaze brothers in action since they were in the biddy program.

“It’s amazing. I’ve known Joey and Marcus and that Blaze family since those kids were little, probably when they were 7 and 9 years old, and Joey was a chubby little kid,” Burnett said.

“I knew he was going to be good, but he was clumsy, and he always had fight. Marcus was an assassin competitor, and they are both so driven.

“To see how those guys have progressed, and to see Joey become No. 1 in the country in his weight class, arguably, going Big Ten, going to Purdue, and his brother has the heart of a champion, right there No. 1 in his weight class I’m sure in some rankings,” Burnett continued.

“To see their leadership, they really set aside the personal stuff to lead our team, to be great leaders. That’s real hard for a high school kid who is used to winning — they are usually thinking about we want attention.

“This year, those guys put our team before themselves. Joey has been wrestling with a torn-up elbow all year. He’s going to have surgery (this week).”

Joey is preparing for Purdue, hopefully after a successful surgery, but he already has an idea what Big Ten wrestling is going to be like.

“I don’t know — those guys are good,” Joey said. “I think I can wrestle with anybody any time. If it wasn’t for the numbness and I just had to wear that brace, I’d be 100%, but in every match my arm goes out.

“I think I can compete, but I’m not even doing my best wrestling right now. I have that brace on to keep my blood flow.”

Yet, Joey was unbeaten against his high school competitors this year, but still had to miss some tournaments, including the prestigious Iron Man hosted by Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls.

“I didn’t win Iron Man, but I couldn’t do that because of my elbow. I got a torn UCL, and the ligament is out of place. It’s about four or five inches up my arm from where it is supposed to be,” Joey said.

“My arm gets locked a lot, and I chipped something in my radial bone, so my fingers go numb. It is what it is, but it’s something I have to deal with. I rehabbed all summer and didn’t wrestle at all, came back, and re-hurt it, and it took me a while to get back on the mat at full strength.”

To reach the state final, injured, Joey pinned Olentangy Orange senior Idell Ferguson (25-14) in 5:14, pinned Nordonia senior Caleb Ridgley (38-8) in 1:31, and won his semifinal by a 23-7 technical fall over Toledo Whitmer senior Isaiah Schlegel (34-15).

Joey says his younger brother Marcus is one person he can always count on.

“He’s like mental rock, Man,” Joey said. “He keeps me sane, and I love him to death. It sucks that this is my last year, and I won’t be competing with him for another two years, at least, so everything he does I do.”

Familiar foe

Marcus got to the state final by pinning Mason junior Marsel Sabirdjanov (34-9) in 2:27, pinning Mayfield junior Sal Palmisano (45-9) in 3:39, and winning an 18-7 major decision against Lakewood St. Edward sophomore Adam Butler (39-11) in the semifinal.

Marcus was facing off with a familiar foe, Medina, in the championship. It was the third straight week the two paired off.

“It’s difficult,” Marcus said. “You have to switch up how you wrestle, because you wrestled so much, he knows what you like, and I know what he likes.

“I just had to get to my offense, He’s familiar, so he has a gameplan. He wants to slow me down, so I just had to get to my offense and get a couple scores, and then open up.”

Marcus earned the technical fall with 51 seconds remaining in the championship match. Tech falls are rare in state finals, but that does not mean it came easy.

“Some people say it should be, but it is not,” Marcus said.

For the second straight year, Perrysburg finished as state runner-up to St. Edward. The brothers like to win, so a team state championship was their gameplan, but they have played major roles in putting Perrysburg wrestling on the map.

“That’s awesome,” Joey said. “I think we put the work in to be the best team in the state. Things didn’t play out how we wanted to. I think we had a couple slip-ups that cost us a huge amount of team points.

Marcus added, “Scotty (coach Burnett) showed me a picture from four years ago, and they were in tenth place. So just in three years we were state runners-up, and state runners-up again, so that is awesome.”