Juggling academics, athletics and a social life can be a bit daunting for a high school student, but Elyria senior Joshua Breeding has put together a pretty successful combination.
The two-time state qualifier, who placed fifth in the Division I state tournament last season, will be wrestling for Princeton University next year after accumulating a 4.66 GPA and scoring a 33 on his ACT.
The difficulty of performing at elite levels on the mat and in the classroom — at the same time — is not something that is easy to comprehend.
“For me it’s completely impossible to process because I’m a dummy,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said. “Between working out all those hours a day and then — oh, by the way — you have a ton of work you have to do academically. He doesn’t just get it done, he excels. He excels at both.”
The future Ivy Leaguer has been working on his mat skills since he was 4, training with Burnett’s father, Ron, at All-American wrestling.
“He taught me how to wrestle left-handed, he taught me the barrel roll, which was one of my favorite moves, he did a lot for me,” Breeding said. “I wrestled at BTW (Burnett Trained Wrestling) with Erik after that, so it was a no-brainer to come to Elyria and wrestle for Burnie.”
Breeding’s high school debut couldn’t have gone much better. He came up big in big matches, led off the Pioneers’ lineup at 106 pounds and worked his way to the state tournament, winning sectional and district titles along the way.
Breeding’s freshman season was highlighted by several signature wins, including a 2-0 decision over
St. Edward’s Matt Kazimir in the sectional final, a 6-2 decision over Brunswick’s Matt Fields in the district semifinals and a 9-0 major decision over Anthony Wayne’s Caleb Yates, the defending state champion, in the district final.
Breeding is ranked No. 3 in the state at 132 pounds by Intermat, while Kazimir is ranked No. 2 and Fields, who wrestled at Walsh Jesuit during his sophomore and junior seasons before returning to the Blue Devils, is No. 1.
“I’ve been working with the kid since he was a little kid and I know how good he is,” Erik Burnett said. “So I always think he’s got a fighting chance no matter who he steps onto the mat with. So for him to come up with those big wins, it’s so exciting for him. I kind of expect it. He’s just that good on any given day.”
Breeding kept the momentum rolling during his sophomore season — going 3-0 at the dual team state tournament — before a disastrous two-match stretch ended it during the district tournament.
A loss to eventual state champion Noah Baughman of Wadsworth in the district semifinals was followed by a loss to Lamonte Chapman of Fremont Ross in the consolation semifinals.
“He lost a match to a better wrestler in the semifinals, then he ran into a kid that was on a hot streak,” Burnett said. “(Chapman) won eight matches in a row and ended up in the state finals. (Breeding’s) weight class in the state tournament that year — the semifinals — were all from our district.”
Breeding bounced back in a big way last season, rolling through the competition — picking up two more wins to increase his career record at the dual team state tournament to 6-1 — before winning a sectional title and placing third at the Mentor district.
After a 3-1 loss to Fields in the state quarterfinals, Breeding bounced back for an 8-1 win over Bedford’s Jordin James to guarantee himself a spot on the podium.
“Getting my goal last year of getting on the state podium was probably one of the happiest moments of my career,” Breeding said when asked about the top high school moments. “The state duals where I pinned (Dan Conway) from St. Ed’s. It gave the team some momentum even though we lost the dual. That was a good memory. Last year when we won Brecksville was a really good one because we hadn’t done it. That was one of the goals that we really wanted to do.”
The rally in the consolation bracket made Burnett’s list.
“Last year I was really impressed because he took a tough loss in the quarterfinals at state, then he needed to come back and beat a guy that had beaten him a couple times in the match to place,” Burnett said. “That was really good for him to figure out how to win that important match.
“He’d won a lot of big matches before, but it was good to see him turn it around last year especially because of the way his sophomore year ended.”
Now Breeding is ready to write the final chapter in his high school saga. He said it’s gone by quickly and he’s accomplished nearly everything on his to-do list. There’s just one thing left.
“I’ve definitely had a fulfilling career and I’m glad that I got my college commitment out of the way, and now I can just focus on my senior year,” he said. “Now I’m just trying to get better in the room and trying to win a state championship. That’s all I have my eyes on to be honest.”
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