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Edgewood's Vencill shows progression on the mat, places fifth this season

Mar. 30—When you don't start wrestling until you're in eighth grade, there's a lot you need to catch up on.

Kyle Vencill was able to accomplish that mission.

Growing up, Vencill was a basketball and baseball player, but once he stepped on the wrestling mat, he knew what sport he would invest in ... even if it meant he had a lot of catching up to do.

Vencill placed fifth in the Division II 157-pound weight class in the Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament earlier this month in Columbus.

For his effort, he has been named Ashtabula County's Co-Wrestler of the Year for the 2023-24 season. Conneaut's Scotty Edwards, who finished fourth at D-II 285, shared the honor with Vencill.

For Vencill, getting the late start meant never having the benefit of much experience in his corner.

To get where he wanted to go, though, he vowed that nobody would outwork him.

"I think the jumps that I made every year were pretty big," he

said of the progression from eighth grader that never wrestled to state placer. "I can almost guarantee that all the guys higher than me on that podium, they wrestled all through middle school.

"It was always a challenge going against guys that won two state championships in youth wrestling and one in high school. In my

eyes, I'm the hardest working guy in the state and I know I put in more work since I've gotten to high school than they have in their entire life."

After finishing the 20222-23 season as a state tournament alternate, Vencill finished his senior season with a 47-8 record against some brutal competition not just in the postseason but also the regular season.

In the district final

at Kenston, he met

eventual state champion, Kaden King of Medina Buckeye.

In his opening match in Columbus, Vencill drew eventual state

runner up, Clyde's Lance Overmeyer. Overmeyer dropped his title bout to King in overtime.

After going 1-1 on the first day of the tournament, Vencill had to beat Columbus DeSales' Joel Welch, who had defeated him earlier in the season.

In the rematch two months and countless film sessions later, Vencill took control early

and eventually scored a second-period pin to secure a spot on the podium.

Even before reaching Columbus, however, Edgewood coach Scott Blank had him on the mat at places like the Brecksville Invitational, Alliance Top Gun, Erie Cathedral Prep duals, and other nationally known venues.

The coach said he knew he needed more mat time, and Vencill was eager to go anywhere and wrestle anyone to get the experience he needed.

"Kyle jumped on board immediately," Blank said. "He traveled to everything and that definitely helped him. We always talk about kids that plateau out or lost that desire as they get older. But he never did, he was excited and was having fun."

Vencill does not plan on the fun stopping anytime soon either.

He is headed to Virginia Beach the first weekend in April for the National High School Coaches Association Tournament, which is considered one of the top tournaments in the country.

For next year, he plans on attending SPIRE Academy for a year of post graduate schooling and wrestling for coach Mike Kulcycki.

Vencill's intention is

to continue his wrestling with a college program by the 2025-26 season.

"The work hasn't stopped at all," he said.

In fact, it's just getting started.

At the same time, though, he can take a breath and appreciate how far he's come

from a middle school wrestler that was nervous about stepping in the wrestling room to one of the best in the state.

"Looking back at high school, I think I had a great career," Vencill said. "I use that success as motivation. I still have four guys better than me, I have to keep working to get better."

For Blank, it's something to get excited about and continue to follow.

"He's a unique kid and I can't wait to hear how he does and where he chooses to go to college," Blank said.