Nathan Tomasello has just won the Division II district title, another pin, this one coming in the second period. A scratch by his left eye is badly bleeding, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He’s too close to his goal to let things like that derail him.
Tomasello has become the summation of everything a high school athlete can do to put himself in the best spot to succeed.
He chose his school based on the people he would be surrounding himself with, he has listened to those people and he has worked tirelessly — at an unmatched pace, some say — to achieve the loftiest of goals. He’s now on the doorstep of his biggest target yet.
Tomasello, a senior 120-pound wrestler at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, is four wins in the state wrestling tournament away from winning his fourth state title.
He would be only the 23rd person to do so.
Tomasello wrestled in a club in middle school that took place at Walsh Jesuit and met some of the kids who were going to CVCA. He felt comfortable there, and his mother, Sue, was OK with the 35-minute commute from Parma, where he lives. Since he first stepped onto the blue mats at CVCA, he has had his eye on a target only 22 wrestlers before him have been able to reach.
“To be this close to accomplishing it is definitely a dream,” Tomasello said. “And it’s a dream that can come true this weekend. I’ve trained so hard the last couple of years for this moment. I definitely think about it a lot, especially every day the last couple months.”
His career record of 173-5 (47-0 this season) is certainly impressive, but his original goal is still hanging there. He will not be satisfied by anything short of that mark.
“You’ve got to set your goals to be almost impossible,” he said. “If your goal is too easy, you won’t have that satisfactory feeling in your stomach, that you gave it your all. I put that goal up there as an extremely hard test and it’s pushed me the last four years to be better every day.”
CVCA coach Dave Bergen says this one — the fourth one — will be the hardest tournament of wrestling in his life. Tomasello will surely have a target on his back.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you get to the top of your game,” Bergen said. “You win a state title, then a second, then a third, and all eyes are on you. It’s a significant amount of pressure and that’s why there have only been 22 in Ohio. That pressure cracks a lot of people. Nathan’s put himself in a position to stand up under that pressure and push through it.”
He would be the second wrestler from CVCA to win four state titles. Harry Lester did it from 1998-2001. Lester, an Olympian in London, has invited Tomasello to his Colorado Springs, Colo., home the past two summers to train and will be in attendance at St. John Arena in Columbus this weekend.
Although their success has perhaps come at an even pace, they’ve taken different roads to get there. Bergen, who has trained Tomasello along with Elyria coach and former four-time state title winner Erik Burnett, was also the head coach during Lester’s run.
“Harry had a lot of natural ability, and that’s not to say he didn’t work hard because he did, but he had just incredible God-given talent,” Bergen said. “Nathan, I don’t know if he had that natural talent Harry had. He’s taken whatever God has given him and refined it through hard work. I love Harry. But Nathan is the hardest-working guy I’ve ever seen in 20 years. Ever. And he leaves everybody in the dust.”
Tomasello, an Ohio State recruit, lifts weights four times a week out of season and three times a week during the season. He also boxes with a trainer 2-3 times a week on top of CVCA practice, where he goes hard (Bergen directs practice a little easier this close to the state tournament, but Tomasello still stays 30 minutes after).
Training that hard, being that motivated and for that long hasn’t been easy for a kid living his high school years. He’s lost friends who wanted him to party or be more available. He’s gotten down on himself at times, he says. His grades didn’t come at first, but as Sue says, he decided he wanted to get A’s so he started getting A’s, which took even more time out of his day. Nothing has come easy for him. But he’s held onto his closest friends, found rock-solid faith and kept his attention focused.
Talk to him and he’s a fairly soft-spoken person, even quiet. Watch him wrestle and it’s a slightly different story. He doesn’t like to waste much time in attacking his opponent.
“I like to go-go-go,” Tomasello said. “Always moving forward, always hitting shots, trying to just break the guy physically and get him tired. That’s the goal each period and then I try to pick up the pace even more. By the third period, if they still have the match close, that’s my period to get takedowns.”
Bergen says Tomasello’s conditioning and hand-fighting are phenomenal, and that although wrestling is a reaction sport — you do this move, I counter with this move — Tomasello is able to dictate his will. Or as Tomasello, puts it, “beat the guy up physically and break him.”
He’s the type of person who just might succeed in breaking someone, but he’d also be their best friend while they rehabbed. That’s what four wrestlers still in his way will have to worry about in Columbus this weekend.
Because he’s not done working yet.