Western Reserve Roughrider’s Chase Griffith is motivated to succeed

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Chase Griffith of Western Reserve hooks the head of New London's Gabe Lilly in the 126-pound final during the 39th annual John B. firestone Invitational at Black River High School in Sullivan, Ohio, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. Griffith won the match 19-0.

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Chase Griffith of Western Reserve and New London's Gabe Lilly meet in the center ring in the 126-pound final during the 39th annual John B. firestone Invitational at Black River High School in Sullivan, Ohio, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. Griffith won the match 19-0.

Motivation isn’t a problem for Chase Griffith. After the way his season ended last year, the senior wrestler from Western Reserve has more than enough driving him to succeed in his final year in high school.

Of course, having a father who is a former professional boxer helping you with your training doesn’t hurt either.

Last year at the Division III district tournament at Owens College, Griffith wrestled Brayden Leist, of Carey, with a berth in the state tournament on the line. Griffith found himself in the lead with four seconds left in the match, only to get pinned by Leist and watch his shot at state go up in smoke.

“When that match ended last season, you could just see that he was crushed,” Western Reserve coach Art McHenry said.

This year, though, McHenry said there’s been a noticeable change in Griffith.

“Chase was never a slacker, but you can see a change in him in practice,” McHenry said. “He doesn’t waste a minute in practice. He goes in there and does his job. He puts in extra workouts on the weekends with other schools we practice with. He’ll pick out the toughest guy in the room, get his butt kicked, but moves on and doesn’t complain.”

Griffith’s success may surprise some, since he began wrestling just five years ago.

“My middle school coach, Mr. Perkins, talked me into it during my eight grade year,” Griffith said.

It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that Griffith was a natural, and after winning his first match he was hooked on the sport.

“It was pretty good. I went 2-0 in my first day and then 5-0 in the next meet,” he said. “Obviously, I was happy with that.”

According to Mike Griffith, Chase’s father, there was some concern that his son was getting into the sport too late.

“I’m so proud of him. He has really busted his butt to get to where he is. A lot of these other kids started wrestling at the age of four, but he didn’t start until eighth grade,” Mike Griffith said. “He’s worked hard and learned a lot in a short time to get there.”

Mike Griffith knows a little about wrestling, as he wrestled in high school, before giving up on the sport to concentrate on boxing. He feels that experience, along with his boxing career, makes him an excellent motivator for his son.

“I think I’m a pretty good motivator, since I was pretty good at motivating myself,” he said. “I know how much it sucks to cut weight; I understand how miserable that is for him. I teach him different ways that he can do it safely, without dehydrating himself.”

Mike Griffith was certainly good at motivating himself. For nine years, he was a professional lightweight boxer at 135 pounds. He won the IBC champion and fought for the IBF title.

“At one point I was ranked third in the world,” Mike Griffith said. “Yeah, at one time, but that was about 10 years ago. I’m a little too old for that now.”

According to Chase, his father has been nothing but supportive of him when it comes to wrestling and has been a huge help with training and cutting weight. He also admits that he enjoys watching footage of his dad’s fights from his boxing days.

“It’s different. I don’t see him like that; I see him as my dad,” Chase said. “It’s weird seeing that side of him when he was in the ring.”

While Chase and Mike Griffith have both had success in their respective sports, McHenry said the two of them are quite different.

“Chase and his dad are two different animals. Growing up in South Lorain, I knew Mike from some of the gyms he worked out in,” McHenry said. “While they may share the same work ethic, I think Mike was more of the outgoing type, whereas Chase doesn’t want to necessarily be in the spotlight. He’d rather keep his head down and do his job.”

McHenry said that has translated into Chase being a quiet leader in the Roughrider locker room, a leader who leads more by example than by words.

All of the motivation behind Chase is definitely paying off this season. On Saturday, he won the 126 pound weight class championship at the John B. Firestone Invitational tournament by defeating New London’s Gabe Lilly with a 19-0 tech fall. He said his goal is to make it to state this year, while McHenry takes it a step further and said he expects Chase to be a state placer.

On thing is for sure, though. Chase Griffith’s biggest fan will be in the stands cheering him on, no matter how far he goes.

“I get more nervous with him wrestling than I was when I was fighting,” Mike Griffith said. “It gets me so juiced up. Seeing him win makes you feel pretty good. I’m so proud of him.”

@MJ_smahoney

Last Updated: 12/27/2012 11:27:24 PM EST

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