Since dislocating his right knee in eighth grade, there still are times that Reynoldsburg High School senior James Love feels sore after wrestling.
What occurred in the Division I district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby proved to be worth the pain.
After losing his opening match at 182 pounds 6-1 to Worthington Kilbourne senior Lucky Shaut, Love won his next four matches to become the first Raiders wrestler to advance to state since 2010.
Love got another shot at Shaut in his state-qualifying match and pinned him in 3 minutes, 4 seconds.
"My right knee just feels real stiff sometimes, and that's what it was feeling (Feb. 22)," Love said. "It felt good to qualify for state. When I got done, I was so pumped. I wrestled a lot more aggressively the second time (against Shaut) and was going at it full force. The first time I wasn't as warmed up."
Love lost to Hilliard Darby senior Trevor Parker 11-5 in the third-place match at district. He is 33-7 and will face Oregon Clay sophomore Matt Stencel (37-5) in his opening match at state, which will be held Thursday, Feb. 27-Saturday, March 1, at Ohio State.
Reynoldsburg had at least one wrestler at state every year from 2003-10.
Love took fifth at a sectional tournament each of the last two years before becoming one of six Raiders to advance to district from the sectional Feb. 15 at Watkins Memorial.
Love's comeback from a first-round district loss helped Reynoldsburg finish 24th (23) behind champion Marysville (147.5) as 37 teams scored.
"We were kind of joking that the dry season is over now that we got someone out (to state)," Love said. "I just have to keep working."
Coach Jared Ball was impressed with how Love bounced back from his opening-round loss.
Shaut is a four-time district qualifier who competed at 103 as a freshman and 113 as a sophomore. He went 2-2 at 126 at district a year ago before ending up fifth this year.
"It's more of how mentally tough you are," Ball said. "We just planted it in (Love's) head that (he) was going to get another shot (to wrestle Shaut). He was at 126 last year but he's got four years of district experience and that in part played a role. In the end our inexperience cost us. He lost (the first time to Shaut) 6-1, but I wouldn't say by any means that he was out of it."
Seniors Nathan Smiley (126, 26-14 overall) and Raphael Turner (220, 35-10), junior Christian Eubanks (heavyweight, 34-12) and sophomore Dominic Hathaway (120, 25-14) all went 1-2 at district. Senior Jalen Jones (132, 9-10) took fourth at sectional to qualify for district but did not compete.
Both of Smiley's district losses came to opponents who placed among the top six, while Eubanks' first-round loss was to eventual runner-up C.J. Kinzer of Teays Valley.
"One of the questions going into the weekend was: How would my guys with no district experience respond?" Ball said. "They all lost early, but they all bounced back. Everyone won a match who was here. The experience that (Eubanks and Hathaway) have for next year is invaluable."