Schopp comes out of older brother’s shadow

Not too long after he beat Marion Center’s Brandon Heberling, 2-1, at 138 pounds to claim his first District 6 Class AA Tournament title, Tyrone’s Jason Schopp talked to his older brother, A.J., on the phone.

“He’s very excited. He was congratulating me, the usual stuff,” Jason said.

For Jason, the district title was new territory. He’s improved over the course of his four-year career, going from 4-14 as a freshman to 23-11 as a sophomore to 25-8 as a junior to 24-6 as a senior. But he has never had a signature win like he pulled off on Saturday night.

That wasn’t the case with A.J., of course. The older brother was a state champion in 2010, a three-time state finalist, a four-time placewinner, a three-time district champion and won 160 bouts in his glorious career. At Edinboro University, he’s added to that resume, becoming an NCAA All-American last year and is ranked No. 2 in the nation at 133 this year.

Jason says it’s been tough to follow that act, especially when he came up as a freshman the year after A.J. won states, and steped out of his brother’s very long shadow.

“Yeah, there’s a big target on my back because they think I’m amazing like he is,” Jason said. “They just notice the stuff he does, and they think I do the same thing, which I kind of do.”

“I think he’s come out of that shadow this year, and he proved himself in that championship round,” Tyrone coach Blair Packer said. “All through these districts, he’s been gaining a little bit of steam. He had a tough opponent in Heberling, and I thought he handled it well. I thought he wrestled an excellent district tournament, and I’m looking forward to the regionals.”

One of the things that the brothers are very comparable in is their top wrestling. Both will try to score back points with the tilt, and it’s hard to escape from the bottom. Despite being in a scoreless tie with Schopp, Heberling chose the neutral position to begin the third.

“I don’t think too many people want to choose down on him,” Packer said. “[Jason and A.J.] are both very, very tough on top. There’s no doubt about that.”

Seniors begin to feel the urgency of the postseason because it’s their last chance in high school to do anything, but Schopp says he tried to not put too much weight on the district tournament.

“I was just taking it as another tournament,” he said, “and just wrestling because I love wrestling.

Schopp opened the tournament with two technical falls, but then he had to eke out a couple 2-1 wins, including one over Central’s second-seeded Nick Hoenstine. Schopp had split a couple meetings with Hoenstine during the regular season.

“It was pretty tough,” he said. “I just kept my composure through both of the matches.”

Anything past the district tournament would seem to be the cherry on top of the cake. And he knows when he gets to the Southwest Regional Tournament in a little less than two weeks, fans outside of the district will see the Schopp name and start comparing.

“People are just going to be expecting the same things that he would do with the top and the same neutral stuff,” Schopp said. “But, I’ve been picking up different stuff as well. Like my bottom wrestling has been getting better.”

Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at