Vince Pickett has stood on the awards podium twice at the state wrestling tournament, but now he wants to reach the top step.

Vince Pickett has stood on the awards podium twice at the state wrestling tournament, but now he wants to reach the top step.

The Central Crossing High School senior will be making his third state appearance after winning the 170-pound title in the Division I district tournament, which was held Feb. 24 and 25 at Hilliard Darby.

The top four in each weight class at district advanced to the state tournament Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, at Ohio State.

Also advancing for the Comets was sophomore Josh Wimer, who placed third at 106. Senior Dez Hauber is an alternate at 145 after placing fifth.

"We only brought three kids (to district), but they were three quality kids," said coach Jamie Ramirez, whose team finished 18th (57) behind champion Marysville (174) as 37 teams scored. "They wrestled really well for us."

Last year, Pickett was fourth at state at 160. As a sophomore, he was eighth at 145 in Division III while competing for Williamsport Westfall.

"When you get (to state), you can't get too excited," said Pickett, who improved to 37-1 by pinning Lancaster junior R.J. Funk in 3 minutes, 20 seconds in a district final. "The crowd and the atmosphere are so cool, but you can't get caught up in that. You have to stay focused and take it one match at a time."

Pickett is rated second in Division I at 170 in Brian Brakeman's High School Wrestling Forecast, which rates wrestlers to predict the finish of all classes in the state tournament. The top-rated wrestler is Lakewood St. Edward senior Mark Martin (30-2), who is in the opposite bracket and would not meet Pickett until a possible championship matchup. Martin won at 152 last season and was second at 135 as a sophomore.

"My only loss came to the guy who is No. 2 in the country," Pickett said of his 5-3 loss to Cody Wiercioch of Canonsburg (Pa.) Canon-McMillan in a final of the North Canton Hoover Holiday Invitational on Dec. 17. "Even if (Martin and I) would have met in (a state) semifinal, it would still be a big match, but I won't see him until the final.

"But I can't look ahead to that match. I can't take anyone lightly. I have to go out, get the takedown and have fun on the mat. I have to stay focused."

Pickett opens state against Barberton senior Sam Hymes (33-10). The winner faces Medina Highland junior Adam Kluk (38-2) or Middletown senior Desmond Hall (40-4) in the second round. Kluk was seventh at 160 in Division II as a freshman.

"Vince was so hurt last year when he finished fourth and that has been eating at him all year since then," Ramirez said. "He realized he wasn't ready last year and now he has the right mindset at the right time of year."

At district, Wimer lost in the second round 6-4 in overtime to eventual champion Taleb Rahmani of Marysville. He improved to 38-8 by defeating Pickerington North's Payton Gutierrez 3-0 in a consolation final.

"The overtime loss was pretty tough to take, but I really wanted to go to state," Wimer said. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy because everyone has worked hard just to get here. Now I'll go to state and see what I can do there. It should be awesome."

Wimer opens against Youngstown Boardman's Nick Mancini (35-7). The winner will meet Brecksville-Broadview Heights freshman Austin Assad (17-2) or Loveland freshman Brandon Tucker (28-9).

Hauber went 4-2 at district, defeating Hilliard Bradley's Conor Driscoll 8-6 in overtime in the fifth-place match.

"Anything can happen now," said Hauber, who is 32-10 overall. "I'm disappointed that I didn't make it, but I still could get there (as an alternate)."

Ramirez said Hauber will ready if called upon.

"It happens every year," Ramirez said. "There are always two or three or more wrestlers who get injured or don't make weight. You don't know what weight or what division, but you know it will happen.

"Dez was in a loaded 145-pound class and has wrestled his best over the past few weekends. He'll work out this week, be there to weigh in and be ready if he's called upon. It would be great if he would get that chance."

•Grove City had five competitors at district, but only Jordan Shoemaker advanced to state at 120.

The senior wasn't thrilled with his fourth-place finish, but he was ecstatic about qualifying for his first state tournament.

"After I lost in the semifinal (to Dublin Coffman's Chris Mullucey 4-0), I knew that I had to win one match just to make it to state," Shoemaker said. "I knew I couldn't get down on myself because I have worked so hard to get this far and my whole family was here (at district), and I didn't want to let them down."

Shoemaker won his state-qualifying consolation match 3-2 over Brad Kakos of Franklin Heights before losing to Tim Rooney of St. Charles 12-4 in the consolation final.

"Going into state, you have to stay positive and know everyone that's there is good," coach Jay DiMasso said. "You have to realize that kids are going to score on you because they are one of the top 16 kids in the state. But Jordan is an excellent technician and he doesn't make many technical mistakes. That's when you get in trouble."

Shoemaker (36-9) opens state against Cincinnati LaSalle senior Max Byrd (40-1), who was second last season at 119. Byrd was sixth at 119 as a sophomore and seventh at 112 in 2009.

Senior senior Caleb Dick (195) was sixth for the Greyhounds, going 3-3 at district to finish 33-9. Also competing at district were junior Zane Chappelear at 152 (1-2 at district, 33-8 overall), senior Steven Neeley at 182 (1-2, 35-10) and sophomore heavyweight Chandler Evanichko (1-2, 21-19).

The Greyhounds and Westerville Central tied for 17th (33) at district.