To say that Utica High School's Dylan Wheeler is having a good wrestling season would be an understatement.

To say that Utica High School's Dylan Wheeler is having a good wrestling season would be an understatement.

In fact, he's been nearly perfect.

Wheeler, who is ranked No. 1 at 130 pounds in the Division III district coaches poll, hasn't lost since he split two meetings with Granville's Dillon Bright at the season-opening Granville Invitational on Dec. 5. Wheeler won by decision in a pool-play bout, but Bright pinned him in the rematch.

"Not many guys have really challenged him since Bright," coach Mike Garven said of Wheeler, who is 22-1. "I'm not even sure if he's been taken down since then. He probably has, but it hasn't been very often."

Wheeler advanced to the Division II state tournament a year ago at 125 and finished 44-10. He took a difficult route to the Schottenstein Center, however, losing in a championship quarterfinal at the district meet before charging back with three must-win victories in the consolation bracket to place fourth. He put his name on the map by stunning Granville's Jesse Cohen 23-7 in a state-qualifying match.

Wheeler then added to his resume by winning once at the state tournament, stopping Napoleon's Josh Lynch 7-5 in a consolation match. He came back for his senior season as the first returning state qualifier at Utica since Scott Johnson in 2006-07.

"I think he's more focused after being at state," Garven said. "Now that he's been there, he wants to go back again and place."

Brian Brakeman, who just released the 39th edition of his annual "High School Wrestling Forecast," believes Wheeler will do just that.

He predicts Bedford St. Peter Chanel's Mike Kovach, a two-time placer, will reach his first state final and win it, and that Wheeler will place sixth. Brakeman adds a caveat, however, in that Monroeville's Hunter Stieber and Logan Stieber will compete at 119 and 125, respectively. They are the projected state champions at those weights.

"Wheeler stands out at (the) Heath (district)," Brakeman wrote. "I'm guessing he could go at 125, but (130) is a much easier weight class."

Wheeler lost 17-6 to eventual state runner-up Nate Skonieczny of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in his opening match at the state meet last season, and he defaulted his second consolation match to Chagrin Falls Kenston's Jake Kazimir. Missing an opportunity to compete in the placement rounds energized Wheeler's offseason regiment and gave him a clearer picture of what he needed to work on, Garven said.

"He's solid on his feet, but he's still working on getting better on the mat," Garven said.

"When he runs into a kid who can take him down, he's got to be better wrestling from that position."

With that in mind, Garven said he was trying to get his team into the John Deno Classic Saturday at Athens.

The Redskins, who went 7-1 in MBC duals this season and posted top-three team finishes at all four tournaments they competed in, also have the league meet ahead of them at home on Feb. 13.

"We'd really like to get into the Athens tournament," Garven said. "That's always a tough tournament; there's got to be somebody down there who will challenge him."

ELSEWHERE -- Brakeman also predicts that Heath's Dom Barlow, who is ranked sixth at 135 in Division III, and teammate Travis Drumm, who is fifth at 189, will place at the state meet. His projected state qualifiers in Division II are Lakewood's Alex Strayer (140) and Licking Heights' Tyler Price (103) and Eric Wolfe (135).