It’s now or never for former Dixon High School state champion wrestler Joe Roth.
A senior at Central Michigan University, Roth will take his second and final attempt to earn a medal at the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament this week. It begins today in Oklahoma City, and his goal is to earn a medal that goes to the top eight finishers in each weight class.
“The goal is to get on the podium,” Roth said. “I’m peaking at the right time, and I just need to wrestle like I have been all season.”
The 133-pound Roth (23-7) earned a spot in the NCAA tournament by placing second at the Mid-American Conference tournament held March 8-9 in Kent, Ohio. The top five finishers in each weight class moved on.
Roth, the No. 2 seed, opened with a 14-3 major decision against Old Dominion’s Michael Hayes, then posted an 8-3 victory against Eastern Michigan’s Vincent Pizzuto in the semifinals.
In the finals, Roth took on the top seed, Joe Colon of Northern Iowa, and dropped a 10-3 decision. Colon is the No. 1 133-pounder in the country, according to the InterMat rankings, while Roth checks in at No. 10.
“Strength was the big thing,” Roth said. “There have been two, maybe three guys that I’ve gone against in high school or college that have been stronger than me, and he’s one of them. He’s just really, really good.”
Roth opens up today against Drexel’s Kevin Devoy (19-8), who, according to Roth, spent most of the season at 125 pounds.
His Chippewa teammate, 125-pound national qualifier Corey Keener, handled Devoy earlier this season.
“He likes to do some funky stuff, and he’s really scrappy,” Roth said of Devoy, “but honestly, it’s a match I should win.”
The winner of that bout will get either Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff (27-4) or Northwestern’s Dominick Malone (16-15) in the second round.
Roth, a 119-pound Class 2A state champ at Dixon in 2009, has been a fixture in the Chippewas’ lineup for most of his years in college. He redshirted as a freshman, then posted a 22-12 record in the 2010-11 season at 125 pounds.
His most successful campaign was in 2011-12, when he went 35-9, again at 125 pounds. He won a MAC championship, earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at that tournament, and wrapped up the season with an NCAA tournament appearance. He went 1-2 there.
In the 2012-13 season, Roth posted a 16-3 record, setting the stage for his final season. He has his eyes on a prize – a medal – in his final college tournament.
“We wrestle a very difficult schedule here,” Roth said, “and I’ve faced most of the guys ranked in the top 10 during the season. I won three or four of those matches, so it’s not like I have to have an unbelievable tournament to get a medal.
“I just have wrestle clean, stick to the game plan, and everything will work out.”
A health fitness major, Roth carries a 3.07 grade point average at Central Michigan. He’ll be doing an internship at a hospital in Mount Pleasant, Mich., this summer, and will graduate in August. He then plans to attend medical school.
High school: Dixon, class of 2009
College: Central Michigan
FYI: Won 2A state championship at 119 pounds as senior. ... 4-year starter at Central Michigan. ... Won Mid-American Conference title and qualified for NCAA Tourney as sophomore.