Despite being bloodied, C.J. Campbell and Jake Stratton of the Hilliard Bradley High School wrestling team didn't let the scrapes they sustained during their respective title matches prevent them from winning Division I district championships and earning state berths.
Campbell (106 pounds) and Stratton (170) will represent the Jaguars in the state tournament, which runs Thursday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 1, at Ohio State.
"It's a physical sport and there's no easy path to the state tournament," coach John Riggs said. "It's part of the process. It's a hard three-week grind to get down to the state tournament and try to work your way up on that podium. Our kids trained hard and competed well."
The top four finishers in each weight class at district, held Feb. 21 and 22 at Darby, advanced to state.
Campbell, a junior who went 4-0 at district to improve to 44-4 on the season, defeated Davidson's Trent Gill 2-1 in the final.
"I wrestled all-year round," said Campbell, who also defeated Gill in a sectional final Feb. 15 at Upper Arlington, winning 3-2. "Wrestling all the time helped me get a lot better. I was wrestling state qualifiers all the time at open mats. That helped me a lot to improve my technique and drilling and helped me win that (district title) match."
Stratton, a senior who went 4-0 at district to improve to 43-5, defeated Westerville North's Jakob Hinz 6-4 in the final. He secured the victory with a takedown with 11 seconds remaining.
Stratton was Bradley's only state qualifier last season, going 0-2 at 170.
"Last year, I qualified but I didn't win a match, so this year my goal is to get on the podium," he said. "My goal last year was just to make it there, so I accomplished that. This year it's one step up and be on the podium."
In the opening round at state, Campbell will face Madison's Corbin Post (25-11) and Stratton will face Chagrin Falls Kenston's Nolan Kondik (37-10).
Bradley had nine wrestlers competing at district, including Rob McGrath (120) and Keegan Driscoll (160). Both finished fifth and were state alternates.
Will Stratton (132), Ryan McGrath (138) and Patrick Yeo (182) all went 2-2 at district, Riley Amador (113) went 1-2 and Ryan Beveridge (heavyweight) went 0-2.
"You always want more, but I'm real pleased with the way our kids came in here and competed from top to bottom," Riggs said. "I'm very happy for the kids who are moving on and placed (at district). I'm very proud of our kids and their efforts."
Bradley scored 85.5 points at district to finish seventh behind champion Marysville (147.5) as 37 teams scored.
Wildcats' Smith earns fourth trip to state
Davidson senior Bobby Smith will be making his fourth state appearance after winning the Division I district title at 132.
Smith, who went 4-0 at district to raise his season record to 45-3, pinned Olentangy Liberty's Trey Grenier in 1 minute, 30 seconds in the final.
Last season, Smith had to settle for being state runner-up at 126 after losing to Massillon Washington's Ivan McClay 3-1 in the final. His first two state appearances came in Division III when he was attending Ready. He placed fifth at 103 as a freshman and went 1-2 at 126 as a sophomore.
"This has been a grind ever since last year at the state finals," Smith said. "It's made me want it all the more and I've been working all year, working all summer non-stop to get it and now I'll do everything I can to achieve my dream this year."
Smith will face Avon Lake's Joey Bernosky (36-7) in the first round at state.
"Bobby stepped it up the last two weeks, so he's ready to go," coach Dominic DiSabato said. "He knows when it's time to step up. The pressure won't get to him. He'll be ready."
Smith will be joined at state by Gill, a senior who earned his first trip to state by going 3-1 at district to improve to 38-10. He was a state alternate at 106 last season after finishing fifth at district.
Gill will face Aurora's Jarrod Brezovec (41-3) in his opening match at state.
Davidson had four other district competitors, including junior Amir Mansour, who placed fifth at 195 and is a state alternate. Simon Erben (126) and Garrett McIlvain (145) both went 1-2 and Logan Sadler (heavyweight) went 0-2.
"You always want more, but I'm real happy for (Gill)," DiSabato said. "He didn't wrestle real good in the finals, but getting there was big."
The Wildcats scored 65 points at district to finish 11th.
Three advance to state for Panthers
Advancing to state for Darby were seniors Sean Black and Trevor Parker and junior Zack Donatelli.
Black was the Division I district runner-up at 160, losing to Olentangy's Cody Pollitt 5-2 in the final. Black, who went 3-1 at district to improve to 35-4, will face Oregon Clay's Nick Stencil (39-6) in the first round at state.
Parker lost to the eventual district champion, Mount Vernon's Matt Lybarger, 6-5 in the second round at 182 but battled back to finish third. Parker, who went 5-1 to improve to 39-8, defeated Reynoldsburg's James Love 11-5 in the third-place match.
Parker will face Lakewood St. Edward's Gabe Dzuro (36-4) in the opening round at state.
Donatelli placed fourth at district at 170, going 3-2 to improve to 32-9 and losing to Hamilton Township's Clayton Ray 13-2 in the third-place match.
Donatelli will face Massillon Perry's Isaac Bast (47-7) in the first round at state.
"We're pretty happy, especially for those three guys who qualified for the state tournament," coach Brendan Moody said. "I know for those guys that was a big goal for them, so it was nice that they get a little bit of a reward and move on to the ultimate tournament."
Also at district, Robert Valenti (120) went 2-2, Quentin Thatcher (132) went 1-2 and Zach Garrett (126), Nick Zawodny (220) and Chad Miller (heavyweight) each went 0-2.
Darby scored 59 points to finish 14th.