Aaron Yarger of the Pickerington High School Central wrestling team has the mentality of going hard for six minutes every time he competes.
Yarger seemingly made the most of every second to capture a Division I district championship at 152 pounds Feb. 22 at Hilliard Darby, winning two matches by lopsided margins and another by pin in less than three minutes to earn his second consecutive state tournament berth.
"I have to wrestle every match like it's my last. I just have to go out there and go hard for six minutes every time," said Yarger, who was sixth at state at 152 last year. "I made my improvements through the year and really turned it on when I needed to. I got a lot better on my feet. I was always pretty tough on top, but worked on my feet this year and it's helped."
The top four finishers in each weight class at district advanced to the state tournament Thursday, Feb. 27-Saturday, March 1, at Ohio State.
Yarger, who is 35-2 overall, defeated Licking Heights' Josiah Harrell 16-0 in the first round, pinned Westerville North's Hunter Sintobin in 2 minutes, 55 seconds in the second round, beat Pickerington North's Nick Notestine 12-5 in a semifinal and defeated Westerville South's Caleb Llaneza 12-0 in the final.
Yarger also pinned Llaneza in 52 seconds in a sectional final Feb. 15 at Central, handing him his first loss in 38 matches to that time.
"It really comes down to peaking at the right time and Aaron has done that," coach Jason Allen said. "He has been wrestling very aggressively and has been taking it to opponents. You always want to head into state on a winning note, and Aaron dominated in the final."
Tyler Hogue also advanced to state by finishing fourth at 126, losing to Delaware's Greg Brusco 11-2 in the third-place match. He went 3-2 to improve to 32-9 and earn his first state berth.
Central scored 62 points to place 12th in the two-day district tournament behind champion Marysville (147.5) as 37 teams scored.
Also competing for the Tigers were Vu Nguyen (106, 1-2), Devin Johnson (113, 1-2), Ryan McElwee (120, 1-2), Joseph Terry (132, fifth, 3-2), Jordan Pieczynski (145, 2-2), Dylan McDowell (170, 1-2) and Arron Morefield (heavyweight, 1-2).
North's McCafferty heading to state
North's Tyler McCafferty bounced back from a first-round district loss at 160, winning four consecutive consolation matches and earning his first state tournament berth by placing fourth.
McCafferty was pinned by eventual champion Cody Pollitt of Olentangy in 3:42. But McCafferty recovered, making his way to the third-place match before losing 3-0 to Lancaster's Scott Deluse.
"I have been going out like I have nothing to lose and just try to win matches and that's what I need to do at state," said McCafferty, who is 32-12. "I expect I'll be nervous, but I have to approach (state) like it is just another meet. Everyone who has been there has told me that it's been the best experience of their life. I want to go there and have the same kind of experience."
McCafferty is the Panthers' only state qualifier. North, which has not had an individual state champion in the school's 11-year history, scored 86.5 points at district and placed sixth.
"I think in the last month, Tyler has taken things to a different level. I think he may have surprised some people in the postseason," coach Brad Harris said. "Tyler had a tough road, but it was a good experience for him."
Also competing for the Panthers were Andrew Hassel (113, 2-2), Bradley Collins (126, fifth, 4-2), Jared Ferguson (132, sixth, 3-3), Cody Notestine (145, fifth, 3-2), Nick Notestine (152, fifth, 3-2), George Dial (170, 1-2), Ryan Ward (182, 0-2), Wyatt Starkey (195, sixth, 3-3) and Geno Rollo (heavyweight, fifth, 3-2).