The Hilliard Davidson High School wrestling team enters the first state dual tournament expecting to contend for a regional title, which would place the Wildcats among the final eight Division I teams.
However, coach Dominic DiSabato said if his team doesn't improve on its recent performances, it will be difficult to reach its goals.
The Wildcats defeated visiting Olentangy Liberty 37-26 in an OCC-Central Division match Jan. 9, but DiSabato was not pleased with the overall effort.
"I thought we looked terrible," he said. "We're not very good right now. We have some good guys, but we're not a good team. We have some work to do. If we wrestle like this, we're not going to win a lot of duals. We're winning matches and we get pinned. We're giving up pins. We're not tough right now."
Davidson led 32-11 before the Patriots closed to within 32-26.
Lee Wilson then sealed the win with an 11-8 victory over Nick Thrasher at 132 pounds. Wilson, who is 21-3, erased a 5-0 deficit.
The state dual tournament begins Wednesday, Jan. 23, and the Wildcats open against Groveport in the first round at a site to be announced Jan. 15. The winner faces Grove City or Westland in the second round Jan. 30.
Davidson is the top seed in Region 6-A, and Groveport is eighth. The region also includes Central Crossing, Columbus West, Franklin Heights and Upper Arlington.
"We can't give up pins when we're in there, and you have to get pins," DiSabato said. "We have to come out and wrestle."
The regional semifinal also will be held Jan. 30, with the winner facing the champion of Region 6-B on Feb. 6.
That region consists of Lancaster, Gahanna, Mount Vernon, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, Teays Valley and Watkins Memorial.
The winners of each of the eight regions will meet Feb. 9.
"We're hoping to win our region," said Bobby Smith, who is 22-1 at 145. "I think we can do it. We just have to do perform better than we did (against Liberty). We're good enough to do it. We just have to wrestle like it."
In other OCC-Central matches, Davidson defeated Upper Arlington 40-33 and lost to Thomas Worthington on criteria on Jan. 11 at UA. The match against Thomas was tied at 33, with the Cardinals winning because of more pins.
Travis Gusan is 22-0 at heavyweight for Davidson.
Bradley to compete in Region 5-B
Bradley is in Region 5-B of the state dual tournament with Darby, New Albany, Thomas, Westerville North, Westerville South, Whetstone and Worthington Kilbourne.
Bradley, the third seed, faces sixth-seeded Westerville South in its opening match Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Westerville North. The winner meets Westerville North or Whetstone in the second round Jan. 30.
The regional semifinal also will be held Jan. 30, with the winner facing the champion of Region 5-A on Feb. 6.
That region consists of Ashland, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Scioto, Delaware, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Orange and Westerville Central.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it," Jaguars coach John Riggs said.
"It's still exciting to put 14 guys on 14 guys with two teams in a gym. You're going head-to-head. Everybody in the lineup with the most experienced to your youngest kids to your most talented to your least talented, they all count the same. It's six points per match. It should bring a lot of excitement to wrestling in the state of Ohio."
The Jaguars opened OCC-Cardinal competition by defeating Scioto 62-15 on Dec. 20.
Bradley finished fourth (135.5) in the nine-team Porter Memorial Tournament at home on Jan. 12, behind champion Darby (158).
Ryan McGrath (11-8) was first at 132. Finishing second were Chris Wall (10-9) at 138 and Sam Riggs (3-1) at 195. C.J. Campbell (15-5) at 106, Keegan Driscoll (10-7) at 145 and Jake Stratton (9-7) at 170 placed third, and Rob McGrath (15-5) at 113, Jacob Pugh (5-10) at 160, Hunter Kidd (5-4) at 182 and Fraser Smith (5-8) at 220 were fourth.
"We're taking steps forward," coach Riggs said. "We're getting some people healthy who haven't been in the lineup. We're anxious to turn the corner and get back in the OCC season, and we're looking forward to the OHSAA duals."
Darby hopes to advance
Darby is the top seed in Region 5-B and faces eighth-seeded New Albany in the first round Wednesday, Jan. 23, at home.
The winner faces Thomas or Kilbourne in the second round Jan. 30.
"I love it," coach Brendan Moody said of the state dual tournament. "To me, wrestling is still a team sport."
The Panthers opened OCC-Cardinal competition with a 42-28 win over Westerville North on Dec. 20. They also defeated Westerville South 71-6 and Jerome 39-26 on Jan. 10.
"We're in position to now control our own destiny being undefeated in the league, but it's not going to be easy," Moody said. "We still have some solid teams to go through."
The Panthers had three champions in winning the Porter Memorial -- Sam Valenti (22-3) at 120, Matt Walker (23-3) at 170 and Trevor Parker (16-7) at 182.
Placing third were Zach Garrett (9-5) at 113, Adam Ruiz (15-9) at 126, Zach Donatelli (16-8) at 152, Alex Martin (7-4) at 195, Chad Miller (13-13) at 220 and Alec Barker (13-8) at heavyweight. Finishing fourth were Robert Valenti (13-10) at 106 and Kyle Colvin (3-4) at 145.
"This will help us get ready for the state duals," Moody said. "It was good competition. We wrestled a lot of close matches. We like having matches like that, so (last) week competition-wise prepares us for what we have ahead."