Seniors Jared Ball and Jacob Cover completed their first true mission of the season, as they again will represent the Hilliard Darby High School wrestling team in the Division I state tournament Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Ball (195 pounds) and Cover (heavyweight) both won titles in the home district tournament held March 2 and 3. The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for state.
"Jacob and Jared did what they were supposed to do and put themselves in the best position possible moving into the state tournament," coach Brendan Moody said. "This is the first time in program history that we have had two district champions in the same season, so that is special.
"Both of them work extremely hard and deserved their district titles. They have stuck together through the years and have been able to handle any adversity thrown at them. I could not be prouder of them."
Ball is 29-1 on the season and will face Vandalia Butler's Nick Coyle (11-3) in the first round at state. He placed third at state each of the past two seasons, competing at 182 last year and 160 as a sophomore.
Cover, who went 0-2 at state a year ago at 220, is 45-5 and opens against Paul McKnight (40-10) of Cincinnati Winton Woods.
"I am very confident in their mental state right now," Moody said. "They have both competed at the state tournament before, which is a huge advantage going in. They are able to block out distractions and focus on their quest. I am excited to see them compete this weekend and am lucky to have a front-row seat.
"As far as their technique, we will shore up a couple of things in practice and get them the reps and live (action) that is needed, but they have years of grinding that has gone into this. They are ready."
Ball and Cover both went 4-0 at district. Ball rolled to his title, pinning Chillicothe's Collin Lindsey in the first round, recording an 18-3 tech fall over Westerville North's Bodi Bien, winning by injury default in his semifinal and earning a 10-1 major decision over Mount Vernon's Ashton Spurgeon in the final.
Cover pinned Dublin Coffman's Eric Feng in the first round, beat Westerville North's Davis Gaylord 4-1 in the second, edged Columbus West's Dawson Shaw 1-0 in a semifinal and won by forfeit over Marysville's Tyler Connolly in the final.
Four other Panthers competed at district, with juniors Rodney Beneker (182, 32-10 on season) and Isaac Richards (126, 23-12) and sophomore Ryan Blackerby (120, 21-18) all going 1-2 and junior Ben Brown (132, 26-18) going 0-2.
"I thought the other four had an excellent week of preparation going into the district tournament," Moody said. "Unfortunately, we let a couple of matches slip through our fingers, and in a win-or-go-home format, that can be very costly."
Darby scored 61.5 points at district to finish 10th behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Shook competes in state gymnastics meet
Senior Chloe Shook represented the gymnastics team in the individual state meet March 3 at Bradley.
Making her third state appearance, Shook had central Ohio's top finish in any event, placing 13th of 36 competitors on floor exercise with a 9.2.
"I'm so proud of Chloe for bouncing back from her district results and we will miss her greatly because she's meant a lot to the program for several years," coach Carol Eskay said.
Shook placed third of 138 competitors on floor (9.25) in the district meet Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne, where the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around qualified for state.
Shook, who finished 23rd in the all-around (34.95) at state last season, competed on just floor this year after placing 11th in the all-around (34.575), 12th on vault (8.65), 21st on uneven bars (8.275) and 32nd on balance beam (8.4) at district.
The Panthers placed fifth (133.775) of 24 teams at district, as Thornville Sheridan (145.425), Olentangy (139.5) and Bradley (135.425) advanced to the team state meet March 2.
Also at district, freshman Jenna Hartwell finished 22nd in the all-around (33.225) and 20th on beam (8.625), freshman Laurel Bonn was 44th in the all-around (31.275) and 23rd on beam (8.55) and freshman Kathryn Kline tied for 48th in the all-around (30.8).
Freshman Bailey Miller had team-best scores on beam (8.85, 14th) and bars (8.3, 18th), and sophomore Scarlett Evans was 31st on vault (8.175).
"I really think we had great depth this year and the best thing is that we have so many talented young girls coming back next year," Eskay said. "There were times when I struggled to make out the lineup because we are so deep."
Bowling teams end season at district
None of the four bowlers who represented the girls and boys teams in the Division I district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes qualified for state this weekend at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Senior Gillian Tinney had the top finish on the girls side, placing 26th of 102 participants with a 474 series (154-166-154). Junior Zoe Paxhia-Poppaw finished 45th with a 428 (135-177-116) and junior Emily Betteridge tied for 65th with a 394 (142-111-141).
Delaware's Kelsey Rohrer (550) earned the third and final individual state-qualifying berth.
Competing at district for the boys team was sophomore Josh Larsen, who finished 42nd of 105 competitors with a 493 (134-157-202). Olentangy Liberty's Daniel Valz (596) was the third and final individual qualifier.
The girls team just missed advancing to district, as it placed 18th (2,783) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes behind champion Gahanna (3,642). Pickerington North (2,875) earned the 16th and final district berth.
Paxhia-Poppaw (493) placed 21st of 208 competitors at sectional, followed by Tinney (446, tied for 43rd) and Betteridge (415, tied for 63rd).
Senior Ash Roberts also rolled a 415, but Betteridge won the tiebreaker for the 16th and final individual district-qualifying berth with a high game of 153. Roberts' high was 144.
Also competing was freshman Lyndsey Seagraves (98th, 369).
The Panthers finished 13-1 overall, won the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-B Division title at 11-0 and went 5-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to place second behind Delaware (6-0).
Also on the roster were freshmen Sarah Leming, Callie Mann and Jayde Martin.
Larsen qualified for district by tying for 39th of 220 sectional competitors with a 509 on Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
The boys team placed 25th (3,041) of 38 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (3,836).
Junior Jalen Clisby (47th, 488) just missed advancing as Whetstone's Nathan Vokac (45th, 493) earned the final individual berth. Also competing in three games were juniors Alex Meister (71st, 463) and Nick Carter (123rd, 384).
Rounding out the roster were senior Derek Violette and junior Alex Hulteen.
The Panthers finished 9-5 overall, tied Bradley for fourth (7-4) in the COHSBC-B and tied Kilbourne for second (4-2) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Delaware (5-1).
@Brad_ThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: Boys -- 9-5 overall, 7-4 (tied for fourth) in COHSBC-B, 4-2 (tied for second) in OCC-Cardinal; Girls -- 13-1 overall, 11-0 (first) in COHSBC-B, 5-1 (second) in OCC-Cardinal
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Derek Violette; Girls -- Ash Roberts and Gillian Tinney
*Key returnees: Boys -- Jalen Clisby, Josh Larsen and Christian Meister; Girls -- Emily Betteridge and Zoe Paxhia-Poppaw
*Finishes: First in OCC-Cardinal, fifth at district
*Seniors lost: Liz Avila, Kaysi Morris and Chloe Shook
*Key returnees: Laurel Bonn, Scarlett Evans, Jenna Hartwell, Kathryn Kline and Bailey Miller