Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Derek Cain has had several second- and third-place finishes for the Bexley High School wrestling team.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Derek Cain has had several second- and third-place finishes for the Bexley High School wrestling team.

He has not won a tournament during that time, however, which is why exasperation was etched across the face of the senior after losing to Hamilton Township's Trace Koehl 1-0 in the final at 152 pounds of the Grandview Invitational on Jan. 21.

"I was so frustrated with myself. I kept asking myself, 'Why does this always happen to me?'" Cain said. "I've gotten second or third in almost every single tournament I've been to the last two years. I keep asking myself, 'What do I need to do to get that first place?'"

Cain will continue his chase of that elusive first-place finish on Saturday, Feb. 11, in the MSL-Ohio Division tournament at Licking Valley.

"I think at this point, it's a mental block," coach Shawn Straub said. "Derek has a couple of tournaments left. I think if he goes out and enjoys himself, he can walk away with a championship."

Cain might have a chance to avenge one of his second-place finishes this season in the league tournament, as he could meet Whitehall's Ifa Abduljelil, who won 9-5 when the two met in the final of the Licking Heights Invitational on Jan. 14.

Cain placed second in the Nye Cardinal Classic on Feb. 4 at St. Charles and finished third in the Highland Classic on Dec. 10 in Sparta.

Last season, he placed second in Whitehall's Dan Gartner Duals, the Licking Heights Invitational, the Grandview Invitational and St. Charles' Nye Cardinal Classic and third in the Franklin Heights Invitational.

"Whenever you place (second) at a tournament, it gives you confidence," Cain said. "At the same time, you're still behind the person who won the tournament. There are still things to work at. (Being the runner-up) reminds me to work that much harder to improve."

Straub said Cain has gained confidence over the course of this season. He has a 23-7 record with 12 pins, with most of his losses coming at 160. He began the season at 160 before dropping a weight class.

Last season, Cain went 32-10 at 152.

"His experience is starting to show," Straub said. "When he's going against the better kids, he's able to keep up with them. He's peaking at the right time."

"The last couple of years when I stepped on a mat, I looked at the guy I was wrestling and I'd get nervous," Cain said. "This year that nervous feeling is not there anymore. I'm confident in my skill set. I go out and wrestle my way."

Cain likes to use an up-tempo approach, which stems from the way Straub runs practice.

Straub has his wrestlers run for 20 minutes before each practice and as soon as they finish their run, they slip on their wrestling shoes and immediately begin situational wrestling drills.

"We have a couple breaks, but most of the time when we wrestle, it's live the whole time," Cain said. "My coaches have told me I need to pick the pace up more. That's what I've been doing."

"I believe in conditioning," Straub said. "The kids are in great shape, so I just keep them moving from one thing to the next."

In past years, the MSL-Ohio championship was determined by a series of dual matches. This season, the league switched to a tournament format. Last year, Cain was the league champion at 152 after going 5-0 in dual meets.

Cain is hoping the new league format will prepare the Lions for the postseason. Bexley is seeded 18th in the district and will compete in a 13-team Division II sectional tournament Feb. 18 at Licking Heights. Also at the site will be top-seeded Licking Valley, third-seeded Caledonia River Valley and eighth-seeded Big Walnut.

The top four finishers in each weight class at sectional advance to the district tournament Feb. 24 and 25 at Uhrichsville Claymont.

After going 0-2 as a freshman at 140 and placing sixth at 145 as a sophomore at sectional, Cain placed fourth last year to advance to district, where he went 0-2.

"My junior year was a big turnaround. I won three of my matches," Cain said of the sectional. "I am looking for this postseason to be 10 times better than it has been in the past."

•The girls basketball team is seeded 20th in the Division II district tournament and will face fifth-seeded Eastmoor Academy in the first round at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Delaware. The winner plays Hamilton Township in the second round at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at Delaware.

"By the time we were up (in the tournament draw on Feb. 5), we didn't have a ton of options," coach Jim Strode said. "Out of all of our choices, this seemed to be our best one. Hopefully, we will be a different look for Eastmoor."

Eastmoor dropped to 13-6 with an 89-51 loss to Africentric on Feb. 3.