Thomas Worthington High School senior Andrew Shackelford finally will compete in the Division I state wrestling tournament.
Shackelford finished second at 182 pounds in the district tournament that concluded Feb. 23 at Hilliard Darby. The top four in each weight class qualified for the state tournament, which runs Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State.
"It was a big relief," Shackelford said of winning his state-qualifying match 5-0 against Hilliard Bradley's Sam Riggs. "I finally got through. I knew I belonged in the finals and I was expecting to go. But I felt like that last year, too, and didn't make it out. I should've been there last year."
Shackelford, who was a state alternate last season, is 35-6 overall and will face Parma senior Justin Halaska in the first round. Halaska is 33-5 and was eighth at state last year at 182.
"I am excited and think if I stay focused and just wrestle the way I know how, I'll be fine," Shackelford said. "It's just a matter of being prepared and sticking with your fundamentals and technique."
Thomas placed 15th (53 points) of 35 teams scoring at district, as Marysville (163) won the title.
Shackelford was the only Cardinals wrestler of the seven competing to advance to state.
"(Shackelford) looked good, really solid," coach Mark Gundling said. "Last year he beat three kids during the regular season who wound up going to state, but he had a rough postseason. He won six tournaments as a junior. So this is overdue and he earned it."
Shackelford lost to Olentangy's Nate Hall 3-1 in a district final. He opened by beating Columbus West's Paco Quinonez 5-1 in the first round and Darby's Trevor Parker 3-2 in a quarterfinal.
"Andrew is extremely strong and stays in very good position," Gundling said. "He's very disciplined and has a strong, positive attitude."
Junior Noah Messerall (132) and sophomore Ben Hooff (138) are both state alternates after going 4-2 at district and finishing fifth.
Messerall lost his state-qualifying match to Mount Vernon's Lane Hinkle 10-5. He defeated Bradley's Ryan McGrath 8-5 in the fifth-place match to move to 34-7.
Hooff lost his state-qualifying match to Lancaster's Tanner Miller 11-2. He defeated Watkins Memorial's Noah Holter 17-4 in the fifth-place match to improve to 33-8.
"Things didn't go as well as we had hoped overall," Gundling said. "The good news for Noah and Ben are that they have another year or two. We're looking for good things from them next year."
Senior heavyweight Brooks Gilmore, a sectional champion, went 2-2 to finish 32-8. Senior Kasey Ackley (120) also went 2-2 to finish 34-11. Junior Will Coleman (126) went 1-2 to finish 26-18 and freshman Tyler Norris (106) was 0-2 and finished 23-12.
"I'm confident that some of the younger guys will break through next season," Shackelford said. "I know perseverance can pay off. They'll be motivated."
Wolves' Wahl qualifies for state
Kilbourne senior Kyle Wahl had success against everyone he faced at district except Darby's Sean Black, and he was the only one of the Wolves' six district qualifiers to advance to state.
Wahl (145) lost to Black 9-1 in a quarterfinal but then made it all the way through the consolation matches before losing to Black 9-1 in the third-place match.
"My focus wasn't so good (Feb. 22), but I went home, thought about it and really focused on what I needed to do (Feb. 23) to get to state," said Wahl, who is 39-10. "It came down to my consolation semifinal (5-4 win over Mount Vernon's Lucas Staten) and I kept my pace and never stopped moving."
Wahl opened by beating Marysville's Collin Smithey 9-4 before losing to Black. The next day he pinned Canal Winchester's Nick Hammond in 4 minutes, 41 seconds and defeated Westerville North's Jeremiah Ferguson 11-8 and then Staten.
"Kyle Wahl is just relentless," coach Brett Shaut said. "I'd say he was the underdog in every match (Feb. 23). His opponents are always bigger and stronger. But he's absolutely unbelievable with constant pressure; he just goes after them. He has an unorthodox, funky style and is naturally gifted. They try to keep him down and he squirts out all the time. He's a spectacle to watch."
Wahl will face Lakewood St. Edward senior Edgar Bright in the first round at state. Bright is 35-2 and a four-time state qualifier. He was runner-up at 132 last season and runner-up at 112 in 2011.
Juniors Austin Oberly (106) and Lucky Shaut (126) both went 2-2 for the Wolves at district. Oberly finished 37-10 and Shaut finished 31-11.
"They both wrestled their hearts out," coach Shaut said. "We were extremely disappointed for Oberly and proud of his effort. Lucky has had a bum ankle for a few weeks and he wrestled through the pain to be a three-time district qualifier. So we're very proud of him, also."
Three others, senior Josh Jenkins (182), junior Danny Darby (138) and sophomore Tyler Silverthorn (120), all went 0-2. Jenkins finished 29-15, Darby went 20-18 and Silverthorn was 26-13.
Kilbourne finished 27th (21) as a team.