Mitch Herren competed in four sessions of the Division I state wrestling tournament from March 8-10 at Ohio State, the attendance for which averaged 10,283.
The Upper Arlington High School junior and first-time state qualifier simply pretended as if he was competing in the Golden Bears' wrestling room.
"I thought it would be different, but it's just wrestling. It's what I've done my whole life," Herren said. "Since I was like 6, I hoped I'd be wrestling here one day. I've been coming here watching forever. It doesn't matter how big a stage it is or how many people are watching. When you're in the match, it's just wrestling."
Herren's laser focus paid off with an eighth-place finish at 113 pounds.
He went 2-3 at state, losing by pin to Mentor's Nick Sabin in 1 minute, 39 seconds in the seventh-place match March 10 to cap a 36-11 season and become the 35th state placer in program history and first since Kevin Drake finished fourth at 145 in 2009.
Herren scored all six of UA's points, and the Bears tied Fremont Ross, Mentor and Newark for 49th place behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (170.5) as 70 teams scored.
After a 10-3 loss to Fairfield's Moustapha Bal in the first round, Herren defeated Medina's Braydon Potter 14-0 in a first-round consolation match and pinned Massillon Perry's Jake Williams in 3:20 to assure himself a placement. Herren then was pinned by Olentangy's Jacob Sherman in 1:58 in a consolation quarterfinal.
Teammate Jesse Bowers, a sophomore who also was making his first state appearance, went 0-2 and finished 35-13. He was pinned in both losses, by Brunswick's Logan Heil in 3:02 in the first round and by Harrison's Cameron Baird in 2:25 in a first-round consolation match.
Those performances capped a season that began with four seniors quitting shortly before the first tournament but eventually featured UA's first top-10 finish at district since 1993 and its first state qualifiers since 2013.
"I am very proud of this team," coach Matt Stout said. "Considering what we lost at the beginning of the year and what we thought we would have, this team has wrestled very hard."
UA went 2-3 in the OCC-Central Division to finish fourth, behind Dublin Coffman (5-0), Marysville (4-1) and Hilliard Davidson (3-2) and ahead of Central Crossing (1-4) and Westland (0-5).
In a home sectional Feb. 24, championships from Bowers, Herren and senior Mark Trifelos at 152 carried the Bears to 205 points and second place behind Coffman (205) as 10 teams scored, and seven UA wrestlers qualified for district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.
At district, Herren placed third at 113 and Bowers was fourth at 120 as UA finished seventh (73) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Trifelos, who placed fifth at district and was a state alternate, had a team-best 39-10 record, and sophomore David Soghomon-yan (170), another district qualifier, was 31-11.
Others who won 20 matches were junior Holden Freeman (182, 29-13), freshman Jacob Shanklin (126, 29-14), junior Joey Orlando (132, 29-15) and sophomores Daniel Beam (106, 23-15) and Miles Pearson (138, 23-15).
All were district qualifiers. Orlando was a state alternate.
Season ends for boys basketball team
Winners of two regular-season games against Coffman by a combined five points, the boys basketball team fell behind early and saw little go right in a 68-51 loss to the sixth-seeded Shamrocks in a Division I district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Trailing 31-22 at halftime, the Bears gave up a 12-1 run to open the third quarter and trailed by as many as 23 points in the fourth.
Senior forward Dane Goodwin, the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, scored a team-high 22 points but fouled out with 5:46 left as UA finished 23-2 overall.
Junior forward Max Martz added nine points and four rebounds and senior forward/guard Will Grabovac had eight points and four rebounds.
"We picked a bad time to play one of our worst games in a couple years," coach Tim Casey said. "We lost some composure and I don't know why. I told the guys there was a lot of time left in the game and we can get back in it. We got distracted by a lot of little things. Sometimes that happens, but there are no do-overs this time of year.
"If we could get it under 10 with four minutes to go, I felt like we could put some pressure on them and be right back in it. But they were scoring at will."
Coffman guard Dominiq Penn had a game-high 30 points.
The loss ended a season in which UA won its third consecutive league championship and tied for third with Huber Heights Wayne in the final Division I state poll. The Bears went 10-0 in the league, finishing ahead of Coffman (8-2), Davidson (6-4), Central Crossing and Marysville (both 3-7) and Westland (0-10).
Seeded second in the 48-team district tournament, UA routed 45th-seeded Franklin Heights 70-19 in the first round Feb. 23 and beat 47th-seeded Whetstone 69-26 in a second-round game March 2 before defeating 23rd-seeded Northland 61-44 in a semifinal March 7 at Olentangy Orange.
Goodwin, a Notre Dame commit, averaged 24.1 points and 9.6 rebounds and was named OCC-Central Player of the Year. He also shared district Player of the Year honors with Pickerington North's Jerome Hunter and was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year on March 8. He finished his prep career with 1,953 points and 822 rebounds.
Martz averaged 14.0 points and 4.8 rebounds and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
Grabovac (6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, junior guard Sammy Sass (6.4 points, 3.6 assists, 2.3 rebounds) was special mention all-league and senior guard Casey Jones (3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists) was honorable mention all-league.
"We already talked before the game that we wouldn't let whatever happened (March 10) define us," Casey said. "We had a good year. 23-2 is pretty respectable."
Girls basketball coach proud of season
Although girls basketball coach Chris Savage didn't think the team's final game was representative of its season, he didn't think he could have asked for much more after UA recorded its third 20-win season in five years and ended up one victory short of its third Division I district championship in that span.
UA lost to top-seeded Newark 48-28 in a district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican to finish 20-6 overall and went 8-2 in the OCC-Central.
"They played extremely hard and I never doubted their effort. I think we got the most out of this team this year," Savage said. "We got better at handling pressure and executing. That might not have shown (against Newark), but it was a definite progression from start to finish."
Junior guard Macy Spielman averaged 17.4 points, was named first-team all-league and all-district and became the program's third 1,000-point scorer. She scored her 1,000th point on a free throw during the third quarter of a 73-51 loss to Westerville South on Feb. 6 and ended the season with 1,087 points, 42 shy of the program's all-time leading scorers in Michele DeVault and Kortney Eisenman.
DeVault, a 2004 graduate, and Eisenman, a 2016 graduate, both scored 1,129 career points.
Senior guard Kileigh Casey averaged 7.5 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. She is a Mercer recruit in women's lacrosse.
Junior guard Sarah Poling (7.2 points) was special mention all-league and junior guard Colleen Moore (5.4 points) was honorable mention all-league.
UA finished second in the OCC-Central, behind Coffman (10-0) and ahead of Davidson (6-4), Marysville (4-6), Central Crossing (2-8) and Westland (0-10).
Seeded seventh in the 50-team district tournament, the Bears defeated 35th-seeded Grove City 69-29 in a first-round game Feb. 17 and 31st-seeded Westerville North 54-34 in a second-round game Feb. 23 before beating sixth-seeded Northland 69-54 in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Orange.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
*Record: 23-2 overall, 10-0 (first) in OCC-Central
*Seniors lost: Dane Goodwin, Will Grabovac and Casey Jones
*Key returnees: Max Martz, Josh Rushin and Sammy Sass
*Record: 20-6 overall, 8-2 (second) in OCC-Central
*Seniors lost: Kileigh Casey and Maddy Mead
*Key returnees: Colleen Moore, Erisa Pippins, Sarah Poling and Macy Spielman
*Finishes: Fourth in OCC-Central, second at sectional, seventh at district, tied for 49th at state
*Seniors lost: Jack Stephens and Mark Trifelos
*Key returnees: Daniel Beam, Jesse Bowers, Mitch Herren, Joey Orlando and Jacob Shanklin