As Fairfield High School senior 106-pounder Zach Shupp stood in the tunnel awaiting his match to start the finals of the OHSAA state wrestling tournament, he had a brief flashback.
As a junior, Shupp had climbed the stairs of the elevated mats for the title match only to leave short of a state title.
“Before I got to the mat I thought about how much that sucked,” Shupp said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me.”
Shupp broke a 1-1 tie with five seconds remaining in the third period to cap a nerve-wracking final 20 seconds to claim a 3-1 win over La Salle’s Dustin Norris in the title bout at 106 pounds.
Shupp got in deep on a shot on Norris and had appeared to secure the winning takedown, but Norris eventually countered and squared off with Shupp, just missing turning it into a takedown for him.
Shupp lifted and dumped Norris and watched the final five seconds run off the clock to claim the title.
“I got in a bad situation and I just decided it was my last match and I had to give it my all,” said Shupp, who finished the season 44-1. “That was 100 percent heart. It wasn’t skill or speed or strength. I wanted it more.”
As he watched the final seconds drain from the clock, Shupp tried to wrap his head around what he was accomplishing.
“It’s crazy when it actually happens,” Shupp said. “It is something I have dreamed about a million times and to actually do it is crazy.
“It doesn’t even seem real.”
Shupp’s title is the 10th for Fairfield and add his name to a list that includes four-time champ Willie Wineberg and current Fairfield head coach Jason Laflin.
“It is a lot more fulfilling,” Laflin said. “When it was me, I could control what I did, but your heart gets so wrapped up in it.
“You see all the hard work they do and you get so emotionally wrapped up in them doing it that it is more fulfilling.”
Shupp had defeated Norris 4-2 in overtime last week in the district finals.
With the state title on the line, Shupp used some of the things he picked up in the first meeting to his advantage in Saturday’s rematch.
“I definitely picked up something when I wrestled him the first time,” Shupp said. “I knew that if I came in and wrestled my match, I would win.
“You can’t beat me if you can’t take me down and I knew he couldn’t do that.”