When junior Bobby Smith and senior Travis Gusan transferred to Hilliard Davidson High School last summer, both set their sights on returning to the state wrestling tournament this season.
Both reached that goal.
Smith qualified for the Division I state tournament, which runs Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State, at 126 pounds and Gusan qualified at heavyweight. Both advanced by winning titles in the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Darby.
The top four finishers in each weight class at district qualified for state.
Smith went 4-0 at district, beating Marysville's David Sparks 6-2 in the final, to improve to 41-3 on the season. He will face Cincinnati Moeller's Connor Borton (26-12) in the first round at state.
Smith reached state the past two seasons while attending Ready. He went 1-2 at 126 in Division III last season after placing fifth at 103 as a freshman.
"Coming to Davidson was definitely a good choice for me because at Ready we lost our coach (Chance Van Gundy, who now coaches Dublin Coffman) and they only have five guys on the team right now," Smith said. "Now I have partners, two state-qualifiers and two of my best friends, (seniors) Nick Lawler and Lee Wilson. ... It's been a good room, especially with good coaches like Dom (DiSabato) and Lee's dad, Lee Wilson Sr. It was an all-around good move."
Smith enters state with high expectations.
"I hope to have a shot of winning it," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. I won't accept anything less because I just want to be the best and that's what I've been working for all year."
Gusan also went 4-0 at district, defeating Dublin Scioto's Yoshi Akutsu 3-0 in the final to improve to 46-0. He will face Cincinnati Elder's Kevin Johnson (34-13) in the first round at state.
Last season at Walnut Ridge, Gusan was the Division II state runner-up at heavyweight. He was pinned in 4 minutes, 35 seconds in the final by Washington Court House's Riley Shaw.
"This is more than I expected," Gusan said of his transfer to Davidson. "I have coaches who kind of know a little bit more. My other coaches were real good, too, but I like it here a lot. The move was good."
Also advancing to state were Wilson at 132 and Lawler at 138.
Wilson went 3-1 at district, placing second after losing to Gahanna's Kasee McDougle in the final by injury default. Wilson, who has battled shoulder injuries for much of the season, injured his right arm during the first day of district competition, but DiSabato expected him to be ready for state.
Wilson, who is 40-4, will face Bedford's Shawn Williams (47-6) in the first round at state.
Lawler advanced to state by going 3-2 and placing fourth at district. He is 38-9 and will compete against Lakewood St. Edward's Colin Heffernan (35-4) in the first round at state.
"We want everybody to place (at state)," DiSabato said. "We want them on the podium and we think all four guys can do that."
Junior Trent Gill (35-9) is a state alternate at 106 after placing fifth at district.
Also competing at district for Davidson were Simon Erban (113, 0-2), Galen Moore (160, sixth, 3-3), Amir Mansour (182, 1-2) and Quentin Wolfe (220, 0-2).
The Wildcats finished second (107 points) at district behind Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored.
"We're real happy with the four (state qualifiers) obviously, but I'm proud of all the guys that wrestled," DiSabato said. "It was a good tournament for us."
Three Panthers reach state tourney
Qualifying for state for Darby were senior Matt Walker (170) and juniors Sean Black (145) and Trevor Parker (182).
Walker earned a return trip to state by going 4-0 and finishing first at district, defeating Upper Arlington's Blake Reid 3-2 in the final. He is 44-3 and will face Perrysburg's Rocco Caywood (33-5) in the first round at state.
Last season at state, Walker went 0-2 at 160.
"A goal was to make it this far," he said. "I've been doing everything my coaches tell me, going hard, 100 percent in the room. Last year gives me a lot of motivation. I want to go as far as I can."
"Matt is poised and ready to go," coach Brendan Moody said. "He has a few tough kids in his weight (class), but I think he's one of them. We have to go in there being intense every single match and see how far we can go."
Black went 4-1 and placed third at district. He is 35-12 and will face Ashland's Wyatt Music (40-5) in the first round at state.
Parker also went 4-1 and placed third at district. He is 36-10 and will compete against Massillon Jackson's Charlie Dear (35-8) in the first round.
Senior Sam Valenti (38-9) is a state alternate at 120 after placing fifth. He was a state qualifier last season, going 1-2 at 113.
Also competing at district were Adam Ruiz (126, 1-2), Dalton Mankin (160, 0-2), Alex Martin (195, 1-2) and Chad Miller (heavyweight, 1-2).
Another district qualifier, Zack Donatelli (152), did not compete because of a concussion.
Darby finished seventh (77) at district.
Jaguars' Stratton advances to state
Bradley will be represented at state by junior Jake Stratton (170), who went 3-2 and placed fourth at district.
Stratton is 33-12 and will face Brunswick's Tyler Hughes (38-2) in the first round.
"Jake is a kid who has made tremendous progress over the three years that he's been involved with the high school program, and to see him continue to take steps forward and reach the state tournament level, I couldn't be any happier," coach John Riggs said.
Senior Sam Riggs (23-8) is a state alternate at 182 after placing fifth.
Also competing at district were C.J. Campbell (106, 1-2), Rob McGrath (113, sixth, 2-3), Will Stratton (120, 1-2), Ryan McGrath (132, sixth, 2-3), Keegan Driscoll (145, 0-2), Luke Hammond (152, 2-2), Jacob Pugh (160, 0-2), Hunter Kidd (195, 1-2) and Fraser Smith (220, 2-2).
The Jaguars finished 12th (60) at district.