VERSAILLES – Jeffrey Ware thought his wrestling career was done when he finished on the podium at the state meet. But his plans have changed, and on Monday morning the Versailles senior committed to Ashland University.
“After the state tournament I was thinking about it,” said Ware, who competed in the 285 pound division for Versailles. “It was a good way to end my high school career, and I didn’t want to stop there.”
Ware, the son of Kim and Rick Ware, started to reconsider his college options after he placed seventh at the 2018 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state wrestling tournament. And once he connected with the Ashland wrestling program he knew he wanted to continue his athletic pursuits for four more years.
“I didn’t really think I was going to wrestle in college, but I went up to Ashland and fell in the love with the campus up there and the opportunity it will help bring me in the next four years,” Ware said. “Super excited to continue my wrestling athletic career there.”
Helping to guide Ware to Ashland was Versailles assistant wrestling coach Joe Brandt, who was a four-time all-American for the Eagles.
“My coach Joey Brandt went there, and he helped me get up there,” Ware said. “The guys on the team the coaches, just everything up there really helped me make my decision.”
Having seen the wrestling program at Ashland, Versailles head coach A.J. Bey thinks it will be a great fit for Ware.
“I think it’s a great decision,” Bey said. “Ashland has got a great program up there. You know, we’ve got a good backing from Joe that was a four-time all-American up there so I think he knows kind of what’s going on up there. And I think Jeffrey puts his mind to it, I think he’ll have a pretty good college career.”
Ware, who plans to study business in college, would like to follow Brandt’s lead and compete at the NCAA Division II national tournaments. Ultimately Ware would like to do something that just barely eluded Brandt – win a national championship.
“Ultimate goal is obviously to win a national championship, but I’d like to make it to the national tournament four times and all-American two to three times,” Ware said.
The Ashland wrestling program has produced seven national champions including two this season – redshirt sophomore Bret Romanzak in the 165 pound division and redshirt senior Luke Cramer in the 197 pound division. As a team the Eagles finished fifth at this year’s NCAA Division II national championships.
Being such a strong program, Ware said, it will be a challenge to earn a spot in Ashland’s lineup. However, if he can establish himself as one of the Eagles’ top wrestlers he could be in position to achieve his all-American dreams.
“Hopefully just work hard enough and achieve my goals,” he said. “Great coaching staff up there. I believe they can help me out with that.”
Ware works hard, Bey said, which should allow him to adjust well to the college level.
“His hard work and determination,” the Versailles coach said of Ware’s greatest strengths as a wrestler. “Obviously I think Versailles has had a pretty good program the last 20-some years, and only a few kids wrestle in college. College isn’t for everyone. It’s going to be a tough transition I think like any sport is from high school to college. But I think he gets up there and gets settled in, I think he’ll be alright. I’ve gone up and visited Ashland. The university and the campus is really nice so I think once he starts fitting in there he’ll be OK.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.