Clayton Bullard is making up for lost time.
The junior on the Johnstown-Monroe High School wrestling team was 13-0 before competing Jan. 5 in the Nelsonville-York Invitational. He won the 195-pound title in the Licking County Invitational on Dec. 22 at Licking Heights and went 5-0 in the home Johnstown Duals on Dec. 29 to be named Most Valuable Wrestler of the tournament.
Bullard said he is driven by last season, when he became academically ineligible and didn't compete after winning the 182-pound title and being named Most Valuable Wrestler of the 11-team Thornville Sheridan Invitational held last Jan. 14.
Instead of possibly wrestling in the Division III state tournament, Bullard could only work out with an emphasis toward this season.
"That was terrible," he said of sitting out. "It was great to be able to watch one of my best friends, (2012 graduate) Joey Dismuke, wrestle (at state last year), but I really felt like I should have been out there representing my team.
"But you have to keep your grades up. ... You have to concentrate on school. That's the only way you can have a chance to make it (to state). That's what this year is all about."
In the 195 championship of the Licking County Invitational, Bullard defeated Heath senior Gunner Loughman 5-4 for his first county title.
"It was pretty great to win that title because it's a pretty big event with good wrestlers," Bullard said. "That should help me as I go along this season."
The Johnnies finished 10th (54.5) in the event, behind Northridge (276), Licking Valley (250), Watkins Memorial (208.5), Granville (201), Newark Catholic (165), Licking Heights (120), Lakewood (87), Heath (86.5) and Utica (66) and ahead of Newark (19).
"Clayton just hates losing," coach Jared Writesel said. "He's tall and uses his leverage well. He goes a full six minutes in every match."
Not only is Bullard a standout wrestler, but last fall as a defensive end on the football team he was special mention all-state and first-team all-district in Division IV after finishing the season with 20 sacks, 117 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
"I use the speed and footwork from football on the mat," said Bullard, who also is a first baseman, catcher and pitcher on the baseball team. "Of course, the strength training and conditioning for football also helps me when I'm wrestling. And I guess fighting off blocks and getting around them helps me with my balance."
Snowy weather trimmed the 11-team field in the Johnstown Duals to five with Grove City, Harvest Prep, New Albany and Utica joining the Johnnies. Aside from Bullard, junior Alex Workman went 4-0 at 152.
The Johnnies went 1-3 in the event, defeating Harvest Prep 52-12 and losing to champion Grove City (62-12), New Albany (39-30) and Utica (27-24). Grove City finished 4-0.
Johnstown will compete in MBC dual matches Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Centerburg before Bullard and the Johnnies return to the Sheridan Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 12.
This time, Bullard expects his season to continue deep into the postseason.
"That's the thing about wrestling," he said. "It's just you and the other guy out there, and no one to blame but yourself.
"It's going to take a lot of work to get (to state) and you have to stay focused and work hard. There are no guarantees. You just have to take care of the guy across from you."
"Clayton has one goal in mind," Writesel said. "He not only wants to go to state, but win it. He wants to be the first wrestler at Johnstown to win state, and he's motivated to do that."