New Albany High School senior Mac Ferguson's wrestling career ended with a referee's decision that drew a heated argument from coach Marc Cofer.

New Albany High School senior Mac Ferguson's wrestling career ended with a referee's decision that drew a heated argument from coach Marc Cofer.

Needing a victory to stave off elimination in a 182-pound consolation match against Thomas Worthington's Andrew Shackelford during the Division I district tournament, which was held Feb. 24 and 25 at Hilliard Darby, Ferguson was whistled for fleeing the mat with six seconds remaining. The penalty point awarded to Shackelford, who was about to score a takedown, unlocked what had been a stalemate to that point and proved decisive in Ferguson's 2-1 loss.

"I couldn't get down by two (points) that late," Ferguson said. "I didn't think they'd call it, but they did."

The match had been mostly defensive until the final minute. Ferguson scored first on an escape in the second period and Shackelford forged a 1-all tie with one of his own early in the third. Shackelford, who eventually placed fifth to become a state alternate, had driven Ferguson out of bounds with a shot moments before he took another at Ferguson just inside the outer edge of the circle that resulted in the penalty point.

"The kid got behind him, and in the spur of the moment I didn't think Mac intentionally ran off; I thought his momentum carried him out," Cofer said. "It was a close call. It's one of those things where you hate to see it be the deciding factor. It's just unfortunate it came down to that."

Ferguson went 1-2 at district to finish with a 33-10 record. The Eagles qualified four individuals, and all three who competed dropped their first-round matches. Senior Tommy Chamberlain (145) did not wrestle after suffering a knee injury in his last match in the sectional tournament Feb. 18 at Central Crossing.

"I really wanted to go to state and I'm bummed I'm not," said Ferguson, who will play football at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. "But I'm happy I got to wrestle three years for New Albany."

The team's other seniors included Johna Charles (195), Josh Park (132), Eric Manias (126) and Jack Powers (170). Park finished 32-13 and was a district alternate.

Junior Nick Fluty (113) and senior Ryan Cao (138) also went 1-2 at district to finish with records of 38-13 and 26-18, respectively. Chamberlain was 26-13.

Once they had fallen into the consolation bracket, all three Eagles won their first match to stay in contention. Fluty then lost 5-2 against Reynoldsburg's Greg Chang while Cao lost 5-3 against Lancaster's Tanner Miller.

"They were all close matches," Cofer said. "In Division I, even the kids in the consolation brackets are tough; a lot of them have 30, 35 wins. We're happy our kids came back and won once."

Also expected to return next season are juniors Corey Mulvey (152) and Gabe Sheets (160), who won 17 and 15 matches, respectively. The Eagles went 1-7 to place seventh in the OCC-Capital Division behind Hilliard Bradley (7-0), Mount Vernon (6-1), Olentangy Orange (5-2), Delaware (4-3) and Watkins Memorial (2-5) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-7).

In the postseason, New Albany was eighth (80.5 points) at the 10-team sectional won by Dublin Coffman (196.5) and 31st (5) in the district tournament won by Marysville (174) as 37 teams scored.

"We'll have our Ohio duals at New Albany in May with 16 teams coming in from all over. It's something similar to a tournament we used to go to in Maryland every year over Memorial Day weekend, but that got to be very difficult arranging," Cofer said. "There are about 10 schools here in the state that do something like that now.

"We'll also go to a tournament in North Carolina in July that'll get our kids 10 matches in two days. It's going to be a busy offseason. Wrestling isn't like other sports where you can just stop and pick it right back up again. Getting mat time (consistently) is crucial."