Weighing options for his future as graduation approaches, Anthony Cua of the DeSales High School wrestling team couldn't shake his desire to pursue a career in the Army -- nor does he know why he's so fascinated by the military in the first place.
But as Cua entered his senior year, he also found himself missing wrestling after two years concentrating on football and lacrosse and thought returning to the sport would be the perfect preparation for that next step.
"When it got down to it, I was missing the conditioning and the mental toughness and the accountability of wrestling," Cua said. "I missed the discipline of wrestling. It's second to none. As far as I'm concerned, wrestling by itself stands alone."
Cua, who wrestled as a freshman, has thoroughly enjoyed his return thus far. He is 18-11 at 182 pounds before DeSales competed in the Utica Invitational on Jan. 27, having won the Kevin Michael Tournament on Jan. 20 at Columbus Academy and earning a fourth-place finish in the season-opening Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament on Dec. 2.
Cua began considering a return to wrestling during football season, in which he was a backup fullback and inside linebacker behind University of Oklahoma commit Brian Asamoah and Cincinnati recruit Ty Van Fossen and got most of his playing time on special teams.
Thoughts of going into the Army began much earlier, even though Cua does not come from a military family. He said one of his grandfathers was drafted to serve in World War II, but a back injury kept him from being deployed.
"I am probably the only one in my family with military interest. I don't know (why)," Cua said. "It's always been in the back of my head. It's one of the best teams to be a part of. I believe you can find much better humility and just team practice, whatever, in the military. That's always been something cool to me."
Wrestling coach Nick Preston always held out some hope of Cua rejoining the team. He kept a picture on his tablet of Cua recording what the two of them laughingly call "a big brother pin" during his freshman year, when Cua sat on his opponent's midsection and pinned his arms back to earn a win.
"He's one of the hardest workers in the room every day. It's been a blessing for our team this year. I wish we had more of him," Preston said. "Knowing the tradition and culture of wrestling already, it was easy for him to get back into it. He's really having success taking people down."
Teammate Louis Dytko, who was a team-best 24-3 at 138 entering last weekend, led the charge to get Cua back on the team.
"He's one of the hardest workers in the school," Dytko said.
"I knew he would be a great drill partner despite the weight difference. It's not like he doesn't know what he's doing. He's bigger than me. It's tough to score on him, which really does help me.
"Part of it was him doing it for me. He's also being a great friend helping me out. It's our senior year. You might as well go all out."
The success of Cua and Dytko has helped a team that has only five wrestlers. Rounding out the roster are Keishawn Allen (132), Josh Morse (126) and Cole Potts (heavyweight).
Potts won the heavyweight title in the Jimmy Wood Invitational on Jan. 27 at New Lexington, leading DeSales to 79 points and a 14th-place finish out of 27 teams as Mount Orab Western Brown (310) won.
Exactly when Cua would serve in the military is unclear. He expected to do so through the Army ROTC at whatever college he attends, but John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland recently began recruiting him for football.
Cua plans to take a visit there in February.
"It's a confusing time," he said. "We'll see what happens. If football works out, I don't know if military will be the option, but it will always be something for me to fall back on.
"If that's where my heart wants to go, that's what I'll do."
McCandlish, Ruff lead swimmers in CCL meet
Ian McCandlish of the boys swimming team finished fourth in both the 100-yard backstroke (1 minute, 3.56 seconds) and 100 butterfly (1:02.11) and was on the runner-up 200 medley relay (1:50.56) and fourth-place 200 freestyle relay (1:44.78) in the CCL meet Jan. 27 at St. Charles, helping DeSales finish third overall.
Mitchell Mayerchak, Jona-than Randel and Aaron Spittell rounded out the 200 medley relay for the Stallions, who scored 179 points to finish behind St. Charles (464) and Watterson (225) and ahead of Hartley (161) and Ready (14).
Zane Marmie, Mayerchak and Spittell rounded out the 400 free relay.
Spittell placed fifth in the 500 free (5:59.28) and sixth in the 200 free (2:03.98).
Mary Ruff's third-place finish in the 500 free (5:39.13) led the girls team, which scored 111 points and to place fourth behind Columbus School for Girls (386), Watterson (325) and Hartley (266) and ahead of Ready (30).
Ruff also placed fourth in the 100 back (1:02.87) and was on the fourth-place 200 medley relay (2:06.68) with Fiona Brown, Olivia Moyler and Julia Wilkes.
The CCL meet was DeSales' last competition of the regular season.
The Stallions will compete in a sectional meet Feb. 10 at Thomas Worthington. The girls team is in Division I while the boys are in Division II.
Boys basketball team falls to Eagles
The boys basketball team's four-game winning streak came to an end Jan. 26 with a 53-42 loss at Watterson, and DeSales entered the week still seeking its first CCL win.
The Stallions were 7-6 overall and 0-4 in the CCL before visiting St. Charles on Jan. 30, the scheduled makeup of a game that was postponed on Jan. 12 and again on Jan. 15 because of bad weather.
Kayin Derden scored a game-high 20 points against Watterson. The junior guard was averaging 20.8 points during a six-game stretch dating to DeSales' 58-43 win over Lancaster on Jan. 16 that began the team's winning streak, and had 25 points in a 65-61 loss at Mount Vernon on Jan. 27.
That was only the second non-league loss of the season for DeSales. The first was against Walnut Ridge, 61-48 on Jan. 6.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and hockey teams:
*Feb. 2 -- At Hartley. The Stallions lost to the Hawks 59-55 (OT) on Dec. 22.
Feb. 3 -- At Kettering Fairmont
Feb. 6 -- At Bloom-Carroll
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Ready. The Stallions defeated the Silver Knights 59-41 on Jan. 11.
Feb. 3 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Feb. 1 -- Watterson at Sawmill Lanes
*Feb. 2 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller Easton
*Feb. 3 -- Gahanna at Chiller Easton
*Feb. 4 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center