Gameday+ | Meet a Buckeye: Elijah Cleary, wrestling

Ray Stein
Elijah Cleary [Eric Albrecht/Dispatch]

Elijah Cleary

Sport: Wrestling

Age: 21

Year: Junior

Hometown: Winter Park, Florida

Major: Film studies

Question: On a scale of 1-to-10, how happy are you to be a member of the Ohio State wrestling team?

Answer: It’s definitely a 10. The friends, coaches and experiences provided by being involved in this program are irreplaceable and are constantly challenging me to become a better version of myself.

Q: On that same scale, how happy are you about Ohio weather?

A: I’m not super happy about it. Being born and raised in humid Florida, the cold rainy days and chipping ice off my car in the morning is quite different. I will say that I appreciate the seasons that Ohio presents, such as springtime.

Q: Is there one time of day to be in cold weather that’s worse than others?

A: Early mornings walking to class! Waking up and knowing you have to walk 15 or 20 minutes with wind chills can be a challenge, but Ohio State provided us with some warm parkas, so I can manage.

Q: You’re from Winter Park, which seems like a misnomer being close to Orlando, but had you experienced much winter before you came to Ohio?

A: I had not really experienced winter before coming here but have seen snow and loved it on some family vacations to North Carolina. A five-day vacation is different than a few months, though!

Q: Where else has wrestling taken you?

A: Wrestling has taken me across the country — national tournaments and camps all over the East Coast but primarily in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. I’ve done lots of camps and tournaments to get exposure to new styles and competition.

Q: How would you describe the wrestling scene in Florida? What is the in-state competition level?

A: Florida has a rich history of wrestling, producing nationally ranked teams and athletes for decades, but it definitely has declined in the past few years. Most high schools have teams, but a few teams dominate year to year. My high school, Lake Highland Preparatory School, has been ranked in the top 10 in the country for the past five or six years. The in-state competition level isn’t extremely vigorous, but anything can happen in a wrestling match, which keeps everything competitive.

Q: If you had wanted to stay close to home for college and wrestle, what would have been your best option?

A: I never had any intentions of staying close to home, due to the fact that the best teams are not located in the South and Florida not having any Division I wrestling programs. If I had to choose a Southern program, it probably would have been North Carolina State, an up-and-coming program.

Q: Do wrestlers from other states have different styles — i.e., does someone from Iowa have different moves than someone from Ohio or Florida?

A: Styles definitely differ from region to region, but good technique and work ethic are consistent for results across the country. Wrestlers from East Coast states such as Pennsylvania are known for being very good on top while Ohio and Florida are known for producing wrestlers good on their feet.

Q: Let’s talk turkey: Are you able to enjoy traditional holiday meals, or are you in weight-watching mode?

A: I definitely have to watch my weight during the season with a close eye, but I still enjoy holiday meals. I’ve learned to work out before meals and avoid seconds on days like Thanksgiving, but my sweet tooth can be a temptation around Christmas!

Q: You won a state title at 160 pounds as a junior and at 170 as a senior. So why now, four years later, are you wrestling at 157?

A: My weight definitely has fluctuated throughout my career for various reasons. I wrestled 160 and 170 in high school to help my team win state titles by filling holes in the lineup, but in college I tried to find a weight where I can be competitive. The lowest and healthiest weight while get a starting spot led me to 157 at Ohio State.

Q: Do you feel like 157 is your ideal weight for competition?

A: Yes, but it definitely couldn’t be if I didn’t stay consistent with my diet and training. I feel best at 165, but I don’t have the strength advantage that I have at 157.

Q: Is there one specific food that you miss most during the season?

A: I don’t have to necessarily cut out any food in season, but I have to eat smaller portions if I eat candy, ice cream or fast food. I usually only treat myself on weekends to unhealthy foods because I prefer to train with good nutrients in my body during the week.

Q: What’s your home-front dynamic — parents, siblings, etc.?

A: My family situation is definitely interesting, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll put it this way: My mother works in hospital administration and I have two brothers who both wrestled in college.

Q: Does your family get much of an opportunity to watch you compete?

A: Typically they can make it to three or four events during the season, depending on location. It was awesome to have my mom at the wrestle-offs. My brothers watch a lot of matches online.

Q: You were named winner of OSU’s Kosta Karageorge award last year; what does that award signify and what did it mean for you to win?

A: The award is for a teammate who is willing to do anything for the team but also has a charismatic personality. I’ve heard only good things about Kosta and the impact he had on people’s lives, so getting the award truly was amazing.

Q: Who is your favorite all-time wrestler?

A: My favorite wrestler is (former Cornell University star) Kyle Dake, who still competes. I have always admired his ability to have great emotional control and win close matches. He just won his second world title this past year!

Q: Which OSU wrestler has had the most impact on you?

A: My roommates and teammates Luke Pletcher and Clay Ragon keep me laughing and having a good time when the season can get tough at times.

Q: What are your thoughts about the energy level of your new home arena, the Covelli Center?

A: It is absolutely electric! St. John Arena definitely represents the history of Buckeye wrestling more, but the Covelli Center definitely brings more energy. Running onto the raised mat through fog and flames never gets old and (is) something I enjoy despite the nerves it can bring!

Q: Besides wrestling, what else interests you?

A: I am a huge fan of music and movies, and my other hobbies include fishing and being on the water. I also am a fan of martial arts. I love all the Bruce Lee movies and have always wanted to do karate as my brother used to do it.

Q: What does being a film studies major entail?

A: I am learning about the process of creating films and the history of film as it has evolved over time.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie?

A: I don’t really have a favorite movie, but I definitely have favorite actors, such as Will Ferrell. Comedies and suspense movies such as Quentin Tarantino movies are enjoyable.

Q: What have you learned about yourself in your time in Columbus?

A: I have learned a great deal about myself, but the most significant has to be that I enjoy being independent. Learning how to handle situations on my own and becoming more mature and ready for the business world is very fulfilling.