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'Not done yet,' Tompkins family continues legacy on the mat in Mogadore

Mogadore family has produced a series of stellar grapplers

By JONAH ROSENBLUM | Staff Writer Published: April 21, 2017 4:00 AM

When Josh Tompkins went down to the 2016 state wrestling championship in Columbus, he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Tompkins bore remarkable expectations -- because the Tompkins are a remarkable family. According to Josh, of the five Mogadore wrestlers to win state titles, four are from the Tompkins family or the related Murphy clan.

"I had big shoes to fill as far back as I can remember," he said.

His father, John, was a two-time state champion. His older brother, Shaun, won a state title in 1997, while another older brother, John, finished as high as second. His father pointed to Josh and said, "You know there has never been a Tompkins to go to state and not place."

Josh barely placed in 2016, securing a spot in the top eight with a 3-2 victory, and after, his father sat beside him and congratulated him.

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"I'm glad that's over," Josh replied.

But it wasn't over -- he had his seventh-place match in front of him.

"You want to go down in history as your last match you got beat or do you want to win it?" his father asked.

"I never thought about that," Josh answered.

"You'd better think about that," his father said.

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With eight seconds left, Josh Tompkins trailed. That was when he threw Genoa Area's Adam Bates to secure the seventh-place match, 9-8.

"There was a lot of pressure on him because dad and all his brothers placed at state," John Tompkins recalled. "I was just as proud of him taking seventh as I was the other two taking first and second."

In his final year at Mogadore, Josh Tompkins secured a state championship berth in football and a seventh-place finish in wrestling. All of which means he will have something of his own to brag about at the crowded family table.

"That was always a worry: Are you going to fulfill everyone's expectations of you?" Josh Tompkins said. "I think that I was able to live up to expectations."

According to John Tompkins, who took first in 1971 and 1973, the mountain began with his wrestling coach, Tom Murphy. In a town where football has seemingly always been big, Murphy made wrestling a contender as well.

"All the Tompkins' fame in wrestling comes from Tom Murphy," John Tompkins said. "He's the one that boosted the (program) up and made it happen."

Every Sunday, Tompkins recalled, Murphy held open gym and wrestlers would travel many miles to attend those sessions. At one time, according to Tompkins, there were 14 state champions at one of Mogadore's open gyms.

John didn't waste time becoming one of the best wrestlers in the state. He won district championships in all four of his years of high school wrestling -- and placed first, third and first in the state his final three years at Mogadore.

His first championship might not have even been the best accomplishment by a Tompkins wrestler that year. After all, that was the year when his older brother, Robert, a senior, somehow finished second in the state at 119 pounds in his first year of high school wrestling.

"I've told him before, 'What you did was better than what I did,'" John Tompkins said.

Still, John Tompkins stole the show his senior year, somehow overcoming a dislocated right elbow in the final round of his state semifinal to win the championship.

"I won it basically one-armed," John Tompkins said. "You know that thing they call mind over matter, I believe that with the adrenaline, the endorphins and the will to win, I forgot about the pain. It was like I was in la la land. It was like a dream. It was unbelievable."

George Tompkins, John's younger brother, also battled injuries his senior year. After winning the state title in 1978, he fought through a concussion to place second in 1979. He said he was winning 9-3 in the championship match when the concussion occurred. He ended up losing 18-15. These days, he might not even be allowed to finish the match.

"Those were the good old days," George Tompkins said.

Even graduation couldn't tear the Tompkins away from Mogadore sports. George ended up coaching the WIldcats girls basketball team for 19 years. He never really intended to, but his uncle, Paul Murphy, told him that if he wanted his two daughters to be good athletes, he better get into coaching. Michelle and Tiffany Tompkins both ended up as all-state basketball players. George ended his coaching career with nine league championships, and seven district titles, in 19 years.

"I knew nothing other than I was going to coach basketball like I coach football," George Tompkins said. "I'll yell. I'll scream. I said, 'You guys aren't girls to me. You're athletes.'"

Now, Josh has been talking about getting into coaching himself. He has already immersed himself in helping head wrestling coach Duane Funk. Someday, when the college student's time allows, he plans on doing more.

"I think part of it is we can't physically do it anymore, so we miss it and we want to be around it because that's what we've always done," Josh Tompkins said. "There's such a tradition at Mogadore and you want to be part of that tradition still."

Indeed, for the latest generation of Tompkins athletes, they can't do it anymore. Josh is studying construction engineering at Akron. Michael Tompkins, George's son, is rounding out his time at Field, where he was a running back and defensive back. Michael never wanted to wrestle.

"That might have been his best sport because he's so quick and he's naturally strong," George Tompkins said. "Michael didn't want to be around it, so I didn't force him into it."

Same with John's youngest son, Nathan, who doesn't play football or wrestle. Instead, he runs track.

"That's the biggest surprise," Josh Tompkins said.

"I guess he's just trying to find out what sport he really likes," John added. "I don't think it will ever be wrestling."

And that's okay with John. To be as good as so many in the Tompkins family were, you have to want it and you have to want it bad. Why else would one continue to flail away at someone with a dislocated elbow or a concussion? Ultimately, that's not for everyone.

Yet, if it seems like the end is nigh for the Tompkins family on the mat, that simply isn't the case. Sure, Josh might be done with high school and off at Akron, but already Shaun's son is wrestling in first grade and doing quite well. Same with Robbie Tompkins' three kids.

"There's still another batch coming up," John Tompkins said. "They're not done yet."


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