By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
COLUMBUS — When doctors said no, Jarred Ganger said yes.
When modern medicine to him he couldn’t, he told it he could.
And he did.
Just months removed from Tommy John surgery on his right arm, Ganger, a junior at Covington High School, defied both the odds and conventional wisdom by defeating Ashland Mapleton’s Zack Durbin 3-2 to capture a Division III state high school wrestling championship at 126 pounds.
It is the second state title in a row for Ganger, who also was a state runner-up as a freshman.
“I always pictured myself back on top,” Ganger said. “The doctor said I wouldn’t be back this year, but in my mind I told myself I would be back.”
Not that the match wasn’t without its tense moments.
Ganger scored an early takedown in the first period to go up 2-0, then gave up an escape late to take a 2-1 lead into the second period. In the second period, Ganger scored an escape to go up 3-1. In the third period, he gave up an escape as Durbin trimmed his lead to 3-2, but Ganger was able to fend off repeated takedown attempts by Durbin to hold on for a state title.
“I always plan on getting the first takedown,” Ganger said of his plan coming into the match. “I feel like if I get the first takedown, I’m going to win the match. He tried to get a takedown late, but I didn’t let him finish.”
For Ganger, the win capped a complete comeback from his surgery.
“This feels a lot better,” Ganger said when asked to compare his second state title to his first. “I worked a lot more harder this year. I was out with Tommy John surgery for six months, but I stayed focused. I focus on family and wrestling. I train three times a day. I eat healthy. I don’t eat any junk.”
Covington coach Tom Barbee said Ganger’s attitude can be felt throughout the team.
“He’s just one of the hardest workers in our room,” Barbee said. “He doesn’t allow other kids to make mistakes. He doesn’t make mistakes. Leadership is about getting out and doing it, not standing on the side and cheering everyone on — that’s my job.”
Ganger became only the second state champion in school history and the first since Logan Brown won state at 189 pounds in 2006.
“It feels great — I walk through the halls at school and look at Logan Brown’s picture and see him winning a state title,” Ganger said. “I go into our wrestling room and see his name up there on the wall. I want my name up there, too.”
There’s another wall Ganger will be looking to add his name to, as well. He hopes to capture a third state championship next year, which would put him on the wall at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus alongside the select few in state history to have won three or four state championships.
“Winning No. 2 is one more step closer to winning No. 3,” Ganger said. “I want my name up there in the tunnel as you walk out with all the other three-time state champions.”