Wrestling: Long road pays off for Wynar

Through four years on the Douglas varsity wrestling team, senior CJ Wynar was simply looking for a way to crack the starting lineup.

He will graduate as the team's only regional champion this season.

"It was a big surprise," Wynar said of his title in the 135-pound bracket. "I thought I had a shot heading in but as the tournament progressed it really started feeling kind of surreal, almost like it wasn't happening."

The explanation was simple to his coach, Lamont McCann.

"He did a great job," McCann said. "He peaked at the right time and had a great tournament. That is exactly what you hope for as a coach, because so much of the wrestling season is geared just to prepare you for regionals and state."

Standing atop the podium at regionals, Wynar said he couldn't help but look back on his career at Douglas.

Wynar came in as a freshman with an exceptional group of lightweights at Douglas that included Ryan Olsen and Garrett Hekhuis.

As an 80-pounder that year, Wynar had to wrestle up to even compete in the lowest weight division offered at the high school level " 103 pounds.

"It was kind of frustrating not having a starting spot," Wynar said. "I wouldn't get to wrestle at duals and I was always a non-scorer at tournaments."

That frustration, though, drove him to put in the work to find that starting spot.

"I just kept working, kept trying to break through," he said.

That breakthrough, however, wouldn't come for the next three years.

Douglas gained another strong lightweight Wynar's sophomore year, this time in the form of Nico Barker. The crowded lower half of the roster gave the Tigers plenty of depth but made that breakthrough that much harder to come by.

Being the non-scoring wrestler at tournament though, had an unexpected benefit for Wynar.

"As a non-scorer, you don't go into any tournament seeded," he said. "When you're not seeded, you usually have to go up against the No. 1 seed first.

"That was tough, I mean, I spent a lot of time going directly to that consolation bracket after the first round but I got a lot of good experience from it.

"I would only lose by one or two points."

McCann said the tough part was trying to figure out where to put Wynar in the lineup.

"Here you've got this talented wrestler, but he was always having to wrestle second-team just because of how the weight classes played out," McCann said. "Him and Ryan Olsen were battling it out every challenge and it was always really close."

While he couldn't find a spot in the starting lineup for wrestling, he couldn't put on enough weight to play football.

"I was always kind of small," Wynar said. "I wasn't even allowed to play until I was in seventh grade. I played freshman football, and I was 115 pounds by the time I made junior varsity.

"I just wasn't big enough to move on to varsity in football, so I started focusing on wrestling."

He took with him football coach Mike Rippee's weight program, however, and set to work in the summer to find that varsity starting spot his senior season.

"I went to some of the OSU wrestling camps, worked out in my garage and ran a lot," Wynar said. "Once practice started, I was ready to go. I came in with some confidence."

This time around, it was Wynar who was entering tournaments as the No. 1 seed instead of having to prepare to face the top seed.

"It was a good feeling," he said. "It was a lot of work to get there."

Even as a senior though, McCann wasn't sure where best to place Wynar.

At the beginning of the year Wynar took the 135-pound spot and Olsen shifted up to 145. Halfway through, the pair swapped with Wynar wrestling at 145 and Olsen taking 135.

"We were trying to keep him a dark horse," McCann said. "He wrestled a split league season, and we were able to put both CJ and Ryan in the same class at regionals."

Wynar, who went undefeated in league action between the two weight classes, claimed the regional title by beating Damonte Ranch's Michael Artemis after scoring a takedown with five seconds left in the match.

It was his first career tournament win.

"That was his tournament," McCann said. "What a time to get your first win. It was just a good way for him to go out."

Wynar also won a fourth-place medal at state, opening the tournament with a pin against Silverado's Mark Wagner but lost to Cimarron Memorial's Nick Harris in the second round.

He took a major decision over Artemis before losing to Manogue's Ricky McDonald in the third-place match.

"I felt pretty good heading in," Wynar said. "I had the top seed from the Northern region heading in, but I had to face last year's state champ in the second round. That was tough."

Wynar said he isn't ready to give up wrestling after six years of competition.

"I'm going to stay in shape and compete in a couple tournaments this spring," Wynar said. "I'm hoping to get noticed at one of those and hopefully get the chance to wrestle at the next level."

After all, it's not like a little adversity every slowed him down before.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment