Worthington Kilbourne High School senior wrestler Lucky Shaut competed in the Division I sectional May 15 at Marysville with a heavy heart.
Less than 24 hours earlier, he was helping to carry the casket of one of his classmates and closest friends, Luke Bender, who died Feb. 9. Bender, 18, was a member of the wrestling team last year but did not return this season.
"Luke was a great friend and a former teammate to the kids on this team and he was a district alternate last year," said coach Brett Shaut, Lucky's father. "I hurt for his family and for his friends."
Shaut and classmates Danny Darby and Austin Oberly did their best to maintain their focus at sectional and all three finished in the top four of their respective weight classes to return to the district tournament, which will be held Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Hilliard Darby. All three were district qualifiers last season.
Shaut (182 pounds) pinned Olentangy Liberty's Kyle Arcaro in 3 minutes, 34 seconds in his opening sectional match He forfeited his second match but pinned his next two opponents to finish third.
"He was an absolute mess after his first match and we needed to calm him down and get him focused on getting back to district," coach Shaut said.
Darby placed third at 152 and Oberly finished fourth at 106, helping the Wolves score 70 points in the 11-team sectional to place eighth behind champion Marysville (218.5).
"Danny was close to Luke, too," coach Shaut said. "They will have lots of memories, but right now they have more questions and concerns than anything. They have to deal with their confusion, anger and disbelief and just all these emotions that can be so draining. It's obviously difficult to remain focused on everything that is going on in their world."
Darby, who is 21-14 on the season, will face Westerville North's Hunter Sintobin (24-8) in the first round at district. Shaut (26-5) will face Reynoldsburg's James Love (29-5) in his opening match and Oberly (29-9) will compete against Mount Vernon's Ben Tate (29-9) in the opening round.
The top four finishers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.
Kilbourne has two district alternates in sophomores Charlie Osbourn (120) and Collin Pierce (132), both of whom placed fifth at sectional. Finishing sixth was freshman Michael Duzzny (126).
"You never want to downplay accomplishments, but before (Bender's passing), we anticipated (Shaut, Darby and Oberly would) return to district and we expected a few others to make it out," coach Shaut said. "It was a new season and we were wrestling well. But we are an extremely young team and we were in the most competitive sectional. So under the circumstances, I am extremely proud of everyone who just competed at sectional."
Seven Cardinals advance to district
For the second season in a row, Thomas has seven district qualifiers.
Leading the way for the Cardinals in the Division I sectional Feb. 15 at Upper Arlington were senior Noah Messerall (138) and junior James Ford (220), both of whom won titles.
Senior Will Coleman (152), junior Ben Hooff (145) and sophomore Tyler Norris (106) join Messerall as returning district qualifiers. Ford and sophomores Martice Johnson (113) and A.J. Jones (182) are first-time district qualifiers.
"I am very pleased," coach Mark Gundling said. "It was a great day. We got three sophomores to district and seven overall. That matches the seven we had last season when we had a senior-dominated lineup. I think we could get three to state if we have a good meet and there's potential for more if we have a great meet."
In their finals, Messerall defeated Westerville North's Nick Durieux 6-4 in overtime and Ford pinned Westerville North's Andy Struttman in 1:59.
"James Ford had an outstanding tournament," Gundling said. "Struttman is ranked eighth in the state and James pinned him. James is coming on very strong right now. Noah Messerall beat Durieux with a takedown in overtime after (losing to) Durieux (by technical fall) at district last year. Noah has really stepped up in practice over the past month, and it's starting to show."
Messerall (32-6) will face Licking Heights' L.A. Kelly (16-11) in the first round at district and Ford (27-3) will take on Scioto's Ras Lumpkins (27-3) in his opening match.
"I like the draw I pulled and I'm confident going in," Messerall said. "The motivation of being a senior kicked in about a month ago and I want to go to state and prove a lot of people wrong. I want to end this season at state. I know I'll have to beat some good wrestlers to get there, but I know I can do it."
Johnson (17-9) was sectional runner-up, losing to Grove City's Will Marshall 4-2. He will face Central Crossing's James Wimer (28-9) at district. Norris (21-5), Jones (19-7) and Coleman (12-13) all placed third and Hooff (28-6) was fourth.
In opening matches at district, Norris will face Watkins Memorial's Alex Lieb (37-9), Jones will battle Newark's Dan Pastorius (38-7), Coleman will take on Liberty's Nick Thrasher (26-6) and Hooff will face Tri-Valley's Kade Kowalski (44-2).
The Cardinals finished fifth (150) behind champion Westerville North (237).