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Mar. 6—The state tournament wrestling experience is special no matter when you qualify.

With whom you qualify often makes the journey that much more rewarding.

Such is the case with Madison's Izaiah Siler and Noah Blough. For two years now, Siler and Blough have sharpened each other's skills as drill partners in Madison's wrestling room. A decent number of times, the pair have had to be separated by coaches because of their respective competitive natures.

But that competition has made them both better. It's that competition that has pushed both Siler and Blough to the level at which they'll be this weekend when Madison's 157-pounder (Siler) and 165-pounder (Blough) take part in the Division II state wrestling tournament at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

"I think it makes it a lot better because he's my drill partner and he's helped me get better," Blough said. "I probably helped him get better, too. I'm happy for him."

Siler nodded in agreement, noting that Blough has helped him on and off the mat and that, "we have a great bond when it comes to wrestling."

Well, most of the time.

Both Siler and Blough laughed when asked what their practice sessions are like. Since both are intense competitors — well — Coach Andrew Tomaso probably put it best.

"Let's just say they get a little feisty with each other," Tomaso said with a grin. "Luckily we have enough guys in the room that when we pull them apart we can put them with Addison (Trisket), (Austin) Zembower or Sonny (Salajcik). But it's all good. It's just how they push each other to get better."

Blough agreed, saying, "We're just trying to help each other get better."

It has worked. Blough enters the state tournament with a 37-8 record after placing second in the Kenston District tournament this past weekend. He'll face St. Paris Graham's Bryce Kohler (29-9) in the first round.

Siler (31-13) finished fourth in his weight class at the Kenston District. He'll face Columbus DeSales' Joel Welch in the opening round.

While it's Siler's first trip to the state tournament, this is Blough's second. He qualified a year ago and went 1-2, losing his opener, winning his first consolation match and then bowing out with a second loss. Having a previous experience at the Schottenstein Center will benefit him this weekend, he said.

"I'll know what to expect more this year," he said. "Last year, going out the tunnel I got nervous seeing everything. It's all dark in the tunnel and then you walk out to all those bright lights. Now I know what to expect so I can just go out and wrestle my match."

Blough also has the experience of a lifetime's worth of wrestling to lean upon. Growing up in Montville, Blough started wrestling when he was in first grade along with big brother Logan Blough in the Ledgemont Schools district. When Ledgemont closed, he headed to Madison, while his sisters went to Berkshire.

Siler is much more of a newbie to wrestling. He picked up the sport in seventh grade when a teacher pulled him aside and said, "Hey, I think you'd be a good wrestler," to which Siler responded, "Sure, I'll give it a try."

"I never knew him until he walked into the wrestling room for the first day of practice in seventh grade," Blough said.

Oddly enough, while they are drill partners now, their weights were never close enough to each other to drill together until last season. Now it's a daily occurrence because they're in neighboring weight classes.

"What he helps me with the most is the pace he wrestles," Siler said. "That helps me with my matches because usually, the guys I face are slower than him. His pace is so high, it helps me a lot in my matches."

Blough said Siler's "unorthodox" style pushes him. While many of his teammates have certain styles and moves, Blough said Siler, "is a lot different."

Blough has signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Lake Erie College. Siler, a junior, said he hopes to play college sports someday but notes that cross country is likely his best sport. While Blough is a year-round wrestler, Siler also runs cross country and track when not in wrestling season.

"Those guys definitely put in the time and effort," Tomaso said. "Noah is always on the mat and Izaiah is a three-sport athlete. They put in their hours, that's for sure."

The best part of their journey in wrestling together isn't that they've pushed each other's talents to get them to the state tournament. Blough said something even better has come out of this wrestling experience.

Each has found a new friend.

"We're in different grades and take different classes," Blough said. "Wrestling has brought a completely new friendship that I wouldn't otherwise have if it weren't for this sport."