By ANDY WOLF
The road for University of Findlay wrestlers Nick Goebel and Joey White is coming to a close.
One tournament remains.
The seniors are two of six Roughnecks competing in the Division II national championships Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.
“They’ve been workout partners and friends since the beginning,” UF coach Shawn Nelson said. “It’s always nice to see all that work pay off.”
Both are coming off regional titles.
Goebel, an Elmwood grad, is 19-0 this season and the top-ranked wrestler at 149.
White (17-3) is ranked seventh at 157.
“I keep telling (Goebel) it’s not a national tournament,” Nelson said. “It’s just another tournament with a different name.”
Goebel and White have gone through a rough journey of ups and downs together at UF.
They’re four wins from coming out at the very top.
This is Goebel’s third national tournament, having finished fourth and third the past two years.
He was also No. 1 a year ago but was upset in the semifinals by Nebraska-Kearney’s Destin McCauley.
McCauley, then ranked second, stopped an aggressive shot by Goebel and executed a gator roll to pin him in 1:33.
“I think Nick was overaggressive and McCauley knew it,” Nelson said. “I don’t think he could’ve kept Nick’s pace, so he’s a very smart wrestler. He baited Nick right into that.”
The match reminded Goebel how quickly his hopes of being a champion can end.
McCauley, who also beat Goebel in the 2015 consolation finals, moved up a weight class this year and into White’s bracket where they could meet in the semifinals.
“I wouldn’t have cared if he was there,” Goebel said of McCauley. “It would’ve been sweet to get revenge.”
He doesn’t just want to win it all.
He wants to dominate.
“I don’t want anyone to challenge me,” Goebel said. “I don’t want there to be a thought in anyone’s mine that I’m not the best.
“I also think we’ve got a shot at our team winning it — at least top three. That’d be awesome, too.”
Goebel believes no wrestler has worked as hard as him in the past year.
His results show it.
Eleven of his 19 wins have come via technical fall with only one pin.
“He’s got to keep the pressure on,” Nelson said. “He stays in really good shape. He doesn’t force anything. He sees an opening and he goes. He’s a hammer on top and real good off the bottom.”
The same tactics apply to White as well, just often later in the match.
He remains patient, picking his spots to strike.
“You can score a lot of points in seven minutes,” White said. “I choose not to. I take my time.”
White found out the hard way last year in his first national tournament appearance.
He dropped his opener 4-3 to Maryville’s Greg Hegarty, won his next bout 11-4 over Western State’s Ian Sheen before bowing out 2-1 to No. 3 JaCobi Jones (Colorado State-Pueblo).
While White’s style lends him to wrestle plenty of matches within a takedown or even a point, the two close defeats taught him to not hold himself back as much.
“You can’t change the past. I can change the future, though, control my own destiny and I want to make it on the podium this year for sure,” White said. “Don’t hold back this year; come out swinging. This is it. This is what I’ve wrestled 20 years for.”
His three regional tournament wins were by a total of five points, the last in sudden victory in the finals.
As nice as podium would be for him, White equally wants to win it all.
“Why anything else, right?” White said. “I see No. 1 guys go down all the time. It’s crazy. People wrestle the tournament, not the match.”
White opens against Kyle Fantin (26-13) of Colorado St.-Pueblo.
Goebel’s first match is against Seton Hill’s Ty Ludic (21-11) — a two-time national qualifier.
Wherever they finish, they both nearly didn’t make it.
Nelson had to kick both off the team during their sophomore years due to a violation of team rules. They each missed the entire 2013-14 season.
“(Wrestling) is our life. I’ve done this my entire life,” White said. “I’m not going to give up on it now just because I got in trouble one time.”
After doing plenty of community service and other hard work, Nelson let them back on the team.
They each wrestled the next two seasons but were thrown another obstacle at the start of this season.
Nelson said each athlete has 10 semesters to get in four years of wrestling.
Because of their time away, Goebel and White each had to sit out the first semester.
“Almost finding out I wasn’t going to be able to wrestle was kind of was a shock to me,” Goebel said. “When I (initially) found out I couldn’t wrestle, I thought, man, I wish I would’ve worked harder to win it last year.
“I found out I could wrestle and said, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got this year and not hold anything back.”
Others competing for UF include juniors Mimmo Lytle (285) and No. 4 Bradley Metz (174), and sophomores Alonzo Turner (165) and Devin Rogers (133).
Wrestling: Roughnecks aren’t holding back
By ANDY WOLF