CENTENARY, Ohio — Todd May tried hard to remember a match that Jared Stevens missed.
He couldn’t think of such an instance, which means — most likely at the collegiate level — Stevens likely won’t miss a beat.
That’s because Stevens, the third all-time winningest wrestler in the history of Gallia Academy High School, announced his intention last Thursday to wrestle at Otterbein University.
Stevens’ signing ceremony took place in the Gallia Academy High School Media Center, as he was flanked by his parents Kent and Dawn Stevens; Gallia Academy High School head wrestling coach May; and Gallia Academy High School Athletic Director Adam Clark.
Stevens will wrestle for the Cardinals, an Ohio Athletic Conference program which is a member of the NCAA Division III.
Otterbein is located in Westerville, and is coached by third-year mentor Brent Rastetter.
Stevens graduates from Gallia Academy with 176 career victories, trailing only Cole Tawney and Brandon Taylor for the most all-time wins in school history by a single win.
As a freshman, Stevens qualified for the Division II state wrestling tournament in the lightweight 106-pound weight class, as he then was an alternate to the state meet in his final three years as a Blue Devil.
Now, Stevens said he is ready to change colors from Blue and White to Cardinal and Tan — as well as the style of wrestling on the mat.
“I’m excited to see how I can advance my wrestling career and how I can improve at the collegiate level,” said Stevens. “The style of wrestling is different in college, so I will have to adapt to that new style. I want to thank my family and my coaches and Coach Rastetter for the opportunity he is giving me at Otterbein.”
Stevens said he “received letters from other schools, but the other schools I was looking at did not have wrestling programs or I wasn’t interested in wrestling for.”
He said Rastetter contacted him last fall about making a visit to Otterbein, and came away “really impressed” about its engineering program.
Stevens — the Gallia Academy academic key winner along with his sister Jenelle —plans to major in Systems Engineering.
“Their engineering program really sold me to go to Otterbein,” he said. “It’s all state-of-the-art and a hands-on program. I felt this was the best fit for me.”
On the mat, Stevens will wrestle in likely the 125 or 133-pound weight classes.
He competed at 106 as a sophomore following his state meet appearance, then wrestled at 113 as a junior — and at 120 this past year.
In all four years at GAHS, Stevens finished fifth or better at the Division II district tournament, including in the top four as a freshman.
May said Stevens started wrestling when he was five years old.
“I’ve had him (Stevens) in the (GAHS) program since he was basically a baby. He went from the team mascot to the team stud,” said the coach. “He is a by-product of the kids that have come through the whole system. He has been a very big part of our wrestling program ever since he started. He traveled with us everywhere. It didn’t matter if it was in middle school or high school, he would take on anybody in a match anywhere or anytime.”
And he usually won, whether the match result was a forfeit or not.
That’s because he has remained healthy throughout his entire career.
“He’s super durable. I seriously can’t ever remember him missing a match or even a practice due to injury or anything else that would hold him out. I don’t think he missed a one in his whole career. That’s crazy. I don’t think anyone that’s ever come through this program can ever say that. When’s he had to make weight, he’s made weight. He can wrestle any weight class he is asked,” said May. “I honestly think the college style is going to help him. I think that’s going to be an easy transition. I can see him winning matches right away. Because he understands that style. He’ll find the right weight class where he is competitive at.”
Indeed, don’t expect Stevens to miss a match at Otterbein either, which means he likely won’t miss a single solitary beat.
“It’s been one heck of a ride with him. He’s been first, second or third in every school record we have here. What more can you ask from a kid?” said May. “It’s nice to have a kid that is always ready to wrestle. People will say he is lucky to be that size, but he’s also lucky to be that size AND that healthy. He didn’t have to miss matches. He grew up in wrestling. He’s intelligent, he’s a good kid and he will be a good fit for Otterbein.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106