The grind of wrestling season had taken its toll on Eliot Clark.
Unbeaten in 43 matches entering the Division II state tournament March 8 at Ohio State, the Bexley High School senior lost his first two matches at 182 pounds to end his career with the Lions.
Clark also went 0-2 at state last year. He is the program's only state qualifier since Jake Weisman in 2007.
"I was happy to see a lot of people here supporting me, but I was really tired for some reason," Clark said. "All season I wanted to place at state, but I got tired of it at the end. The pressure of waiting for that was tough.
"Wrestling can take a psychological toll on you. Getting on the podium (as one of the top eight placers at state) is everyone's goal, but I feel a sense of relief right now."
Clark won a district title March 3 at Uhrichsville Claymont as the top four finishers in each weight class qualified for state. Last season, he finished fifth at 182 at district to become a state alternate, but was added to the bracket after fourth-place district finisher Billy Cooper of Jackson withdrew because of injury.
"Eliot's goal all year was to go unbeaten and win a district title, and he did that," said coach Chris Bragg, who completed his third season. "He wanted to prove last year wasn't a fluke and that he could qualify for state without getting in as an alternate. He was able to do that."
Clark led in both of his state matches, only to fall short at the end. He lost to Keystone LaGrange's David McCollough 6-4 in the opening round and Chardon's Sam Eldridge 9-8 in a consolation match.
"You know, 99 percent of it is wanting something bad enough," Clark said. "You cannot worry about things that are in the past.
"Last year, I was looking forward to the experience and this year I felt like I was saying goodbye the entire time. It's time for me to move on from here."
Clark went 90-9 in his junior and senior seasons, but does not plan to wrestle at the next level and has not made a college decision.
"We're happy with the way he has wrestled, and 43-2 is an amazing record (as a senior)," Bragg said. "We raised the bar and qualified a kid to state the right way."
The Lions did not score at state after finishing 15th (49 points) at district behind champion Steubenville (159) as 46 teams scored.
At district, Clark defeated Carrollton's Alex Carrothers 8-0 in the final to win the Lions' first district title since Matt Henn at 145 in 2001.
Senior Reece Wilson placed fifth at 170 and was a state alternate, although he did not get a chance to compete at state. He finished 39-7.
Senior heavyweight Grant Robinson also competed at district, going 2-2 to finish 46-4.
"The seniors were some of the best kids that we have ever had," Bragg said.
"Eliot, Reece and Grant ... they have done a lot for the program. We're losing a lot of good seniors."
The Lions won their second consecutive MSL-Ohio Division title after not winning a league championship since 1998. They scored 195 points in the league tournament Feb. 3 to finish ahead of London (192.5), host Whitehall (161), Grandview (133) and Columbus Academy (71).
Clark, Robinson and Wilson all won league titles. Senior Brent Banks (220), junior Eammon Sears (138) and sophomores Carter Brenner (113) and Jake Brigdon (126) all placed second.
Junior Hunter Hilgeman (138) missed the season with a knee injury suffered during football. He was a district qualifier as a sophomore.
"To be honest, we thought it was going to be pretty tough this season," Bragg said. "We lost a lot of people (to graduation) and we had a lot of injuries, but everyone started to get healthy at the right time and we won another league title.
"We're not sure we will be able to (win the league) for a while, but we're proud of what we have (accomplished) this year. We'll have some good individuals next year, but we might be in the rebuilding mode."
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Finishes: First in MSL-Ohio, fifth at sectional, 15th at district, did not score at state
*Seniors lost: Brent Banks, Bradley Binsky, Eliot Clark, Ethan Gammage, Harry Keller, Andres Perez, Grant Robinson, Shane Sidoti, Reece Wilson and Ryan Woyak
*Key returnees: Carter Brenner, Jake Brigdon, Hunter Hilgeman and Eammon Sears