STEUBENVILLE - The Big Red wrestling squad had a season that saw it qualify eight wrestlers for the state tournament with five standing on the podium at the event's finale. One of the senior cogs in the Big Red machine, Jake Howarth, has signed to continue his wrestling career at Ashland University.
"I definitely chose Ashland because they have a great program down there and I really liked the cafeteria," said Howarth. "But seriously, it was nice down there. It just feels right."
Added Big Red head wrestling coach Mike Blackburn of his grappler's fit at Ashland, "I think Ashland is going to be a great fit for him. It's Division II, they always have a pretty good team.
THE NEWEST EAGLE — Steubenville Big Red’s Jake Howarth signs with Ashland University with his father, Marty Howarth, brother, Noah Howarth, assistant wrestling coach Cornell Birden and head wrestling coach Mike Blackburn.
-- Fred Younce
"I think the coaching staff has done a great job and if you look at the recruiting class coming in, from Fickell to Jake and everyone else they brought in, they're going to be an up and coming team the next few years."
Howarth, who finished his Big Red career with 108 victories, wasn't set on competing at the next level until fairly recently.
"I didn't decide I wanted to wrestle in college until the beginning of this year," he said. "I just started going year round the summer after my junior year.
"My dad and I decided it would be best for my schooling if I decided to wrestle in college and it worked out."
Blackburn discussed the level of commitment Howarth displayed and how it paid off.
"I think the biggest thing about Jake is he trained all summer long as much as he could," he stated. "He went to camps, he went to opens, he did everything he possibly could because he wanted to be good.
"When he decided he wanted to wrestle in college that focus intensified and he ended up having a great year."
That great year included an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference runner-up finish, a sixth- place finish at the Top Gun Tournament, a win at the Watkins Invitational, a sectional championship and a second place finish at districts to go with an eighth-place finish and spot on the podium at the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament.
The senior is quick to credit others for much of the success he experienced during the past year.
"Definitely my coaches," said Howarth.
"My dad supported me the whole year. I want to give a lot of credit to Dunyasha Yetts because he spent countless hours working out with us.
"And, definitely, my teammates too."
The experience of this season was even greater for Howarth when he looked back on how far the Big Red wrestling program came during his time here.
"It was definitely great," he said.
"Freshman year Shawn McGhee and I were part of beginning to put the program back on the map."
Blackburn expects Howarth will succeed on the next level due in part to the fact his work ethic doesn't consist of just athletic pursuits.
"Jake, in the classroom first off, is a talented student and he worked as hard on the wrestling mat as he did in the classroom," he said.