Resting in the bowels of Value City Arena on March 1 after assuring himself a place on the podium in the Division II state wrestling tournament, DeSales High School senior Ian Ferguson thought back two months and laughed.
He entered the season at 182 pounds and, despite winning that weight class in the Kevin Cleveland Invitational on Jan. 5 at Dublin Scioto, nothing came easy.
"At (the) Brecksville (Invitational Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 and 29), I wrestled some huge guys. Three of my losses were there," he said. "I knew I had to go down (to a lower weight class). Why not go down to 160? It's my last year. I wanted to show what I've got."
Ferguson's plan paid off, as he won sectional and district titles at 160 and placed sixth at state, where he went 2-3 to finish the season with an overall record of 39-7. He was the Stallions' only state qualifier.
Ferguson won his two matches at state before being pinned in 2 minutes, 24 seconds by eventual champion Bo Jordan of St. Paris Graham in a championship semifinal. He lost 14-0 to Ravenna's Logan Reaser in the fifth-place match.
"I felt like I was so close to getting here every year, especially last year, but I had a broken hand," Ferguson said after defeating Clyde's Casey Flores 9-5 in a second-round match to secure a spot on the podium. "People ask me what I did in my matches and I have to laugh. A lot of the time, I don't even remember my matches. I just get in a zone and it's just the match I'm thinking of, nothing else. I don't know where I am. It doesn't really matter where I am."
Ferguson was the 120th state placer all-time for the Stallions, who rank fifth in that category behind Division I state champion Lakewood St. Edward (281). DeSales scored eight points to tie Washington Court House Miami Trace for 50th behind champion St. Paris Graham (155.5) as 85 teams scored. Graham won its 13th consecutive title.
Coach Nick Preston said he and Ferguson discussed cutting weight to 160 in late January. Ferguson had wrestled at 170 for much of that month.
"He'll take whatever road he has to to get to a state title," Preston said. "I told him he should compete at the weight he performs best and feels the best at. I don't want to tell anyone to wrestle at a certain weight. He came to me and I mentioned to him if he was able to go to 160, let's do it."
Miltko shines at state gymnastics meet
Senior Kate Miltko of the gymnastics team placed ninth on the balance beam (9.025) in the individual state meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley.
The three-time state qualifier also finished 18th in the all-around (35.0), 19th on uneven bars (8.65) and 31st on both floor exercise (8.5) and vault (8.825).
"She did a beautiful beam routine and was really solid overall. I couldn't be more pleased with her performances," coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said. "She held her composure, like she has all year."
A broken foot sidelined Miltko for much of her junior season.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights' Alecia Farina was first on vault (9.9), bars (9.4), beam (9.45) and the all-around (38.35) and teammate Michaela Romito won floor (9.7). There were 36 competitors in each event and the all-around.
The Stallions did not qualify for the team state meet March 1 at Bradley.
Singer places eighth at state bowling
Senior Miranda Singer of the boys bowling team earned all-state honors in the girls state tournament March 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Singer, who was making her first state appearance, rolled a 589 series to place eighth of 103 competitors. Coldwater's Erika Hartings (648) won the state championship.
"I just wanted to do well," Singer said. "(I'm really) happy (to make all-state) since it's my first time here."
Singer had advanced to state by finishing second (614) in the district tournament and earning the final individual qualifying berth behind Westerville Central's Savannah Slark (625). Slark finished 20th (533) at state.
Boys basketball team upsets third seed
Boys basketball coach Blair Albright admitted that his team's 36-34 win over third-seeded and host Granville in the second round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 27 wasn't pretty.
"We're not a prolific offensive team to start with, but our 11-day layoff (between the regular-season finale and tournament opener) caused us to be a little rusty," said Albright, whose team trailed 10-2 after the first quarter. "But we got their bigs in foul trouble and did well from the line. (Junior forward) Bryan (Stopar) was 6-for-6 from the line and we were 11 of 14 (as a team). We really made some plays when we needed to, especially late."
Senior forward Darrien Scott had a game-high nine points for DeSales, which is seeded 13th and had a first-round bye. The Stallions were 12-11 entering a district semifinal against eighth-seeded Centennial on March 6 at Newark.
The semifinal winner plays 11th-seeded Marion-Franklin or 12th-seeded Beechcroft in a district final at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. The district champion will play Kettering Alter or Wilmington in a regional semifinal March 14 at Kettering Fairmont.
DeSales defeated Beechcroft 66-59 in double overtime Feb. 2. That victory kick-started a stretch of five wins in six games entering this week for the Stallions.
Girls basketball team falls in district final
The girls basketball team erased a six-point halftime deficit to tie third-seeded Hartley late in the third quarter of a Division II district final March 2 at Gahanna, but the sixth-seeded Stallions were outscored 18-11 in the fourth quarter to lose 53-44.
Sophomore guard Carli Codner-Pinto had 12 points and senior guard Miranda Johnson scored eight for DeSales, which finished 17-9 and has lost six consecutive games to Hartley. The district title was the Hawks' first since 2001.
"We know each other so well that it was either going to be a defensive battle or an offensive showcase," coach Brian Cromwell said. "We were right there, but their inside game is strong and they played great defense on the ball."
Hockey team's roster to return nearly intact
Hockey coach Bob Heine called his team's 5-0 loss to third-seeded Dublin Jerome in the third round of district tournament Feb. 23 at OhioHealth Ice Haus "disappointing," especially because the team culture keeps evolving.
The Stallions, who were the 10th seed, finished 19-14-1-1 overall.
"We might have been happy to be here last year (when DeSales went 20-12-1). That's not acceptable anymore," Heine said. "We picked the wrong day to be average. We had an unacceptable mental error 10 seconds into the game and we're down 1-0."
DeSales defeated 22nd-seeded Dublin Scioto 12-0 in the first round Feb. 16 and beat sixth-seeded Springboro 6-3 in the second round Feb. 17.
The Stallions went 7-7-1-1 (16 points) in the Capital Hockey Conference-White Division to place third, behind Olentangy Orange (14-2, 28) and St. Charles (10-5-0-1, 21) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (4-11-1, 9).
DeSales loses only one senior in forward Joe Gray, who had a team-high 42 goals and 20 assists for a team-high 62 points.
Other offensive leaders included junior forwards Tyler Klutch (19 goals, 28 assists) and Danny Helin (15 goals, 22 assists) and freshman forwards Justin Antoncic (21 goals, 13 assists) and Sam Gray (12 goals, 14 assists).
Both goaltenders, juniors Roberto Bahensky and Ben Risinger, also are expected back.