Lief Gilsdorf went 37-1 at 103 last season. This year at 112 and 119 his record is 16-3.
Lief Gilsdorf's shoulders are noticeably broader than they were a year ago.
The bulges in his biceps are more pronounced. The Maumee senior stands an inch or so taller than he did a year ago, when he won 37 straight wrestling matches before coming up on the losing end of the 103-pound state championship match.
Whether or not a bigger Gilsdorf is a better Gilsdorf remains uncertain as the Panthers head into the Northern Lakes League wrestling tournament on Saturday at Anthony Wayne.
For the record, Gilsdorf, a three-time state qualifier, owns a 16-3 mark this season competing in the 112 and 119-pound classes, after wrestling at 103 for his first three seasons.
“It's been an adjustment,” Gilsdorf said. “It's really a matter of working hard. It's a little different, but I expected that.”
As a 103-pound junior Gilsdorf competed in a weight class typically crowded with freshmen and sophomores. With his years of experience and maturity he normally overpowered his opponents en route to his near-perfect season.
But the move up in weight has presented new obstacles for him.
“This year guys are equally as strong or stronger than me,” Gilsdorf said.
The actual competition Gilsdorf has met has not been the real challenge. Finding that right fit in a heavier weight class has been the real struggle.
After three years of advancing to the state tournament at 103, Gilsdorf thought the best chance for continuing his dominance would be to compete in the next heaviest weight class after growing bigger and taller since last season.
But he soon found out that he was not a 112-pounder, but was a natural 119-pounder.
“I was planning on wrestling at 112, but the weight class just didn't fit me.”
Making weight wasn't much of a problem until this year. He's also had to overcome a few nagging injuries along the way. He was injury-free all last season.
“He's had some adversity to fight through with the weight,” Maumee coach Ken Walczak said. “He's much bigger than last year. He started out the year at 112, but it was too much for him to try and compete at that weight. He wasn't feeling right.
“He's been in the sport long enough to know what's best for him.”
Gilsdorf's 16-3 record is solid, and one of the best among the Panthers. Yet it doesn't stack up to losing only once in 38 matches a year ago.
Two of his losses this season have been in 112-pound matches, which has helped him realize he's better suited wrestling with 119-pounders.
And 119 is the weight he intends to compete in at the NLL championships. It's the weight class he hopes to compete in at the state tournament later this month.
“The season didn't go quite the way I wanted it to go,” Gilsdorf said. “Overall, I think I've been wrestling pretty tough.”
His coach expresses a similar opinion.
“He's getting used to [the 119-pound class],” Walczak said. “He had to change his style; I think he has. But I have always believed if you're a good wrestler, you're always a good wrestler.”
Gilsdorf, a two-time league champion, two-time sectional champion and one-time district champion, still thinks about how close he came to winning a state championship last February.
“I probably think about it every day,” he said. “It's what makes me work hard every day. I just don't want that to happen again.”
As for the NLL meet, defending champion Springfield is one of the favorites again. Competition begins at 11:30 a.m. with the finals set for 6 p.m.
“It should be pretty competitive,” Walczak said. “A number of teams could win it. Anthony Wayne is one of the favorites to win it, as well as Perrysburg and Springfield.”
tThe City League championship will be contested Saturday at Rogers, with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and finals starting at 6 p.m. The defending champ is St. Francis de Sales, but Waite and Central Catholic are favored this year.
The team champion won't repeat in the Great Lakes League tournament on Saturday at Fremont Ross (preliminaries at noon, finals at 5). Lorain Southview, no longer a member of the GLL, collected the team title last season. Sandusky, Ross and Whitmer finished second through fourth, respectively, and all should be in the hunt this year.
Elmwood, ranked sixth among the area's Division III teams, is the defending Suburban Lakes League champion entering Saturday's competition (preliminaries 10, finals 5) at Lake.
Archbold, ranked fifth in the Division III coaches' poll, looks to defend its Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship on Saturday at Archbold. Competition will start at 9 a.m., with the finals beginning one hour after the preliminary matches are completed.
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