A steady progression has taken Grove City High School junior wrestler Hunter Barker all the way to the Division I state tournament.
After going 0-2 at sectional at 145 pounds as a freshman and 1-2 at district at 152 last year, Barker earned his first state berth by placing fourth at 152 in the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.
Barker, who finished 12-17 as a freshman and 23-12 last season, enters state with a 38-12 record and takes on Lakewood St. Edward's Padraic Gallagher (31-8) in the first round Thursday, March 8, at Ohio State. Action continues Friday, March 9, with the finals scheduled for Saturday, March 10.
"I trained a lot harder (in the offseason) and I actually took it serious this year and I accomplished it," Barker said of qualifying for state.
He is the Greyhounds' lone state qualifier.
"We are going to go up against (a district champion in the first round)," coach Jay DiMasso said. "Anything can happen. He has a good shot to catch these guys off guard and a good shot if he gets him straight to his back. He's not afraid to take a shot, he's an aggressive wrestler. It creates a lot of opportunities that sometimes you don't see. It's not a slow, boring match for him."
After splitting his first two matches at district, Barker won three consecutive consolation bouts to secure a state berth. His 9-7 win over Hilliard Davidson's Luke DeWeese clinched the spot.
Barker then was pinned by Newark's Hunter Thornsberry in 1 minute, 45 seconds in the third-place match. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
"I was happy," Barker said. "I had some tough matches, but I accomplished what I wanted to."
Grove City qualified seven wrestlers for district, including senior Tanner Stevens, who ended his prep career by going 2-2 at 220 to finish the season 38-10. A three-time district qualifier, Stevens went 92-72 in his career, including 71-19 over the past two seasons.
Junior Justin Swavely entered district with aspirations of earning a state berth but went 2-2 at 138 to finish 38-6.
"This is going to help refocus what (Swavely's) offseason is going to look like," DiMasso said. "He's already texted me that. 'Coach, I'm going to train, train, train.' "
Freshman Taryn Martin earned her first district win as she defeated Olentangy's Jackson Moses 3-0 in a consolation match. Martin went 1-2 at 106 to finish 20-14.
Sophomore Blake Stevens went 1-2 at 132, and sophomore James Scalf (126) and senior Chase Jones (160) each went 0-2.
Grove City finished 20th (34 points) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Basketball players earn recognition
Two boys basketball players and one girls player have received all-district honors in Division I.
For the boys, senior guard P.J. Jones was named second-team all-district and senior guard Nick Erwin was honorable mention all-district.
For the girls, sophomore guard Molly Michalak was named honorable mention all-district.