Conferences tend to build rivalries and there aren’t too many area wrestlers who’ve had better rivalries against conference opponents than Amherst’s Adam Lough.
The Comets senior has twice finished third at the Southwestern Conference tournament — he’s hoping the third time’s the charm Saturday at Midview — with Avon Lake’s Alec Negron taking the titles each time at 120 pounds. He bounced back to hand Negron a pair of defeats in the Division I sectional tournament last season at Westlake.
Lough lost a tough 3-0 match to Avon’s Cade Robertson in the sectional consolation semifinals — the match that would have made him a two-time district qualifier — and avenged that loss earlier this season with a 13-9 victory in a conference dual meet.
“That was really tough,” Lough said of finishing as a district alternate last season.
“Every time I make a mistake that causes me to not proceed in a tournament, I go back to my coaches and ask them what I did wrong. Losing that match and not making it to districts made me want to work harder so it didn’t happen again.”
Lough’s career has been filled with teachable moments, or at least setbacks from which he’s drawn motivation.
It wasn’t love at first sight when it came to the sport, and Lough needed constant urging from older brother Christian, who also wrestled for Amherst, to stick with it.
“I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it at first,” Lough said. “I quit my seventh-grade year and then came back for my eighth-grade year. It kind of grew on me, and I started picking up more moves and I got a lot better at it than I was in (biddy).”
A solid eighth-grade season didn’t translate to instant success in high school. Lough was stuck on the junior varsity squad his freshman season behind 106-pound starter Alex Reyes.
He became the 120-pound starter as a sophomore and finished the season on a high note, advancing to the Division I district tournament after placing fourth at the Toledo Waite sectional. But even that season came with its bumps and bruises.
“Wrestling in the (2017) Maumee tournament really opened up my eyes,” Lough said. “I didn’t even make it to the second day so it made me mad and made me push harder.”
Last season was filled with promise. Lough improved on his record — 26-19 as a sophomore to 31-11 — and won two matches to advance to the sectional semifinals on Day 1. But he lost to eventual state runner-up Brendon Fenton of Elyria and then to Robertson.
“He didn’t make it to districts last year and he’s good enough to be in that district without a doubt,” Comets coach Vinnie Curiale said. “But when you’ve got what we’ve got in our sectional, it’s tough. I think he’s kind of taken the attitude that he has something to prove. That’s driving him and making him work as hard as he’s been working. I believe he can make it to the state tournament.”
Curiale isn’t the only one.
Intermat national high school wrestling analyst Josh Lowe listed Lough as one of several wrestlers he believes will battle for a 120-pound state berth this season at the Mentor district.
“That makes me real confident, honestly, going into that sectional and district,” Lough said. “I really do think I can do it.”
But first up will be this weekend’s SWC tournament. Lough is 23-3 and considered one of the top wrestlers at his weight. Berea-Midpark’s Shane Heil is probably his top challenge.
Curiale said Lough has battled through a midseason injury — he refused to sit out — but has been able to rest the last couple of weeks before the stretch run.
“He’s definitely ready to go,” Curiale said. “If it was up to him, we’d be wrestling sectionals this week. But he’ll have a good test this weekend at our conference tournament. It’ll be a good warm-up for the sectional tournament, just to see what we need to do over the next week to get on that podium at the sectional.
“Right now his goal is to just win conference, so whoever he has to beat to get there. There’s several guys that he’ll have to get through to get to the final and to be a champ. So we’re just kind of focusing on getting in that championship match and then going from there. That’ll give us a good test and let us know where we’re at.”