State experience inspires Kucera

Michael Kucera

Independence 126-pound junior Michael Kucera left the 81st annual OHSAA state wrestling championships in Columbus with a burning desire to return to the Schottenstein Center next winter.

Kucera went 0-2 in his first state tournament experience but he gained a memory that will last a lifetime.

“It was definitely a cool experience that I’ll never forget,” Kucera said. “It was cool going through the tunnel down at the Covelli Center for junior high states but this was to a different level.”

Kucera opened the tournament against event 126-pound state runner-up Klay Reeves of Johnstown Northridge, who won 9-2.

Casstown Miami East’s Kaleb Nickels then beat Kucera in the first round of consolation wrestling, 9-6.

“I had a tough first round match and couldn’t really work any of my offense,” Kucera said. “He had me wrestling his match and I need to change that. My second match I wrestled poorly and could’ve wrestled smarter. The competition down in Columbus is a lot more intense than in any other tournament, as it’s expected. Now that this season is over, it’s time to start working for next season.”

Despite the two losses at state, Kucera learned a valuable lesson.

“Don’t wrestle scared because there will be No. 4 seeds that beat No. 1 seeds and that predictions are made to be proven wrong,” he said.

Kucera closed out the year with a 47-13 record and now is 99-42 in his first three seasons at Independence.

Win No. 99 was a big one as he avenged an earlier loss to Orrville’s Cory Stiffler and punched his ticket to the state tournament.

“My highlight of this season was my to-go match at districts,” Kucera said. “It was against a kid I lost to earlier in the season and I wanted redemption. The fact that it was 0-0 the whole match and I won in overtime, 2-0, made the win a lot more memorable. The feeling of knowing you will be wrestling for the first time in Columbus is the greatest feeling ever, and just celebrating with your coaches and family. That is something I will never forget.”

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The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.