COLUMBUS — Minutes after watching Logan Hursey wrestle his final state tournament match of the season, Newcomerstown coach Jericoe Jones was talking about his blessings.
One stood out. "God gave me this team," he said, with a slight nod of his head.
The Newcomerstown wrestling team, with its growing reputation and bright future, helped Jones with the fight of his life this year.
"I was diagnosed with colon cancer," he said. "I was down to 160 pounds — from 230 — and I needed help to get up off the mat."
Other low points included leaving the mats when a match was over to throw up, which was a result of the chemo and radiation treatments he was receiving.
"I've had parents thank me for what I was doing for these kids, but I had to thank them for what they're doing for me," Jones proclaimed. "All along, the things these kids were doing for me was incredible. They just kept telling me 'Don't worry coach, we got this.'
"They're the reason I was fighting harder and harder."
Jones said he resisted advice to take strong pain killers, instead setting up a regimen of Advil three times a day.
"The pain was pretty severe, but I just stuck with the Advil. Then one day I didn't need it in the morning and then I was able to stop taking it in the afternoon."
Jones said that after the treatments, his weight and strength have returned.
"I'm able to work out again and I have my strength back," he said. "I still have surgery scheduled — I told them to schedule it two weeks after the state tournament — but I feel like God's already healed me."
Jones and the Trojans set another school record this year with four state qualifiers — they set a record with three last year — and finished with two placers.
Sophomore Logan Hursey split a pair of matches and finished fourth at 138 pounds, while junior Gavin Weaver (126) finished fifth for the second straight year. The Trojans scored 26 points at the tournament and were in a tie for 15th place heading into Saturday night's finals.
That's a step in the right direction, but the Trojans have higher goals.
"We started this eight years ago when these kids were in the third grade," he said. "We painted a sign on the wall that says state championship by 2020. Every kid touches that sign at the end of practice and, if they're too small, they just go look at it."
The Trojans, indeed, have a bright future. Weaver will be a senior next year, while Hursey and the Trojans' other two qualifieers — Coltin Meeks and Jordan Sanders — are both sophomores.
"We've also got some nice freshmen and some pretty good eighth graders coming up," Jones said. "We're looking to have a couple finalists next year and take a shot at it.
"We have one team and one goal. If we do what we want at the state tournament, the IVC, sectionals and district will all take care of themselves."
Weaver and Hursey are both two-time state placers. They are the first wrestlers two place in consecutive years since D.J. Grewell won back-to-back titles in 2000-01.