Coach Chris Bragg expected tough battles for his Bexley High School wrestling team in the Division II district tournament.
He still would have liked to come away with better results.
The Lions had seven wrestlers at district March 3 and 4 at Heath, but only one may have a chance to compete in the state tournament Thursday, March 9, through Saturday, March 11, at Ohio State.
Junior Eliot Clark placed fifth at 182 pounds at district, making him a state alternate. The top four competitors in each weight class advanced to state.
"My takeaway from this is that we're wrestling against the best kids and we're losing by one or two points," Bragg said. "We're so close. Every year we get closer. We even had our first wrestler place at district in a long time."
Jake Weisman was the last Bexley wrestler to place at district, finishing second in 2007. He also was the last state qualifier for the Lions, placing eighth at 112 in 2007.
Clark still has a chance to compete at state, and he can find hope in what happened to freshman Carter Brenner in the postseason. Brenner placed fifth at 106 in a sectional Feb. 25 at Whitehall, but competed at district after Columbus South's Fred Johnson did not make weight.
Brenner lost both of his district matches.
"It can happen," Bragg said of Clark getting a state berth. "It happened with Carter. He's a freshman and this was a good experience for him to get in here (at district)."
Clark's path showed how difficult the district tournament can be. He went 3-2, falling to Granville's Mathieu Holt 5-0 in a semifinal and losing to Fairfield Union's Cody Neece 5-3 in a consolation semifinal after defeating Neece 5-2 in the first round. Neece went on to finish third.
In the fifth-place match, Clark defeated Minerva's Reggie Hancock 11-6. Hancock entered district after winning a sectional championship at Uhrichsville Claymont.
"I don't care how much you win, it's the losses that make you better," said Bragg, whose team tied Bloom-Carroll for 22nd (22 points) behind champion Claymont (155.5) as 41 teams scored. "When you lose and come back and get a win that speaks a lot to your character."
Jon Clark, Eliot's senior brother, was close to getting through at 160. He went 2-2 at district, losing to Hartley's Mark Bayless by pin in 3 minutes, 53 seconds in a consolation quarterfinal.
Junior Grant Robinson, who was the program's first sectional champion since Weisman won in 2007, went 1-2 at district at 220.
"I found out what I needed to work on," Robinson said. "I need to take a shot when it's not 100 percent there. I also need to be more confident in matches that I'm not completely dominant."
Seniors Eric Crane (152) and Perrin Ruff (145) and sophomore Hunter Hilgeman (138) also competed at district, with all three going 1-2. Crane is a four-time district qualifier and Ruff is a three-time qualifier.
Boys team finishes
with winning record
The boys basketball team lost at 12th-seeded Watterson 55-39 on Feb. 27 in the first round of the Division II district tournament to finish 12-11 overall.
The 16th-seeded Lions had won six consecutive games entering the postseason. They had lost five of six games before the late-season surge.
"You have to be happy with our record, especially from where we came from," said coach Todd Phillips, who completed his second season. "We put it together at the end, but we looked like a different team (against Watterson)."
The Lions trailed 19-18 at halftime, but were outscored 17-7 in the third quarter as the Eagles seized control.
"When we play defense we do well, but we didn't defend the way we have been," Phillips said. "We just didn't play the way we had been in the past six games. We were making mistakes that we hadn't been making."
Senior guard/forward Simon Kroos led the Lions with 13 points, and senior post player Hank Snowdon and junior post player Shannon Stanley both had six points.
The Lions tied Grandview for second in the MSL-Ohio Division at 8-4, behind Worthington Christian (10-2). Bexley handed Worthington Christian both of its league losses, defeating the Warriors 41-39 on Jan. 6 and 52-47 on Feb. 7.
Columbus Academy and Whitehall tied for fourth (7-5), followed by West Jefferson (2-10) and London (0-12).
Kroos was first-team all-league, leading the Lions in scoring (15.0 points) and averaging 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Sophomore guard Ryan Callahan (second-team all-league) averaged 7.7 points and led in assists (2.0) and steals (1.3).
Stanley led in rebounds (6.5) and averaged 6.0 points, and senior guard/forward Tommy Bruning averaged 5.6 points.