Although he went 0-2, Grove City High School junior wrestler Hunter Barker's experience in the Division I state tournament March 8 at Ohio State will serve as his motivation for a return trip next year.
Competing at 152 pounds, Barker lost by technical fall to Lakewood St. Edward freshman Padraic Gallagher 21-5 in the first round. He then lost to Painesville Riverside senior Alex Farenchak 23-12 in his first consolation match to finish the season 38-14.
"I went 0-2, but I was happy with my performances," Barker said. "I was the underdog, but I fought hard. ... This motivates me to come back even stronger next year."
The day began with Barker's schoolmates, along with teachers and administrators, recognizing him during the school's traditional state walk as a send-off to the tournament.
"That felt pretty good seeing all my classmates cheer me on to go to state, so that gave me an extra boost to come here and fight as hard as I could," Barker said.
Barker earned the state berth by placing fourth in the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced.
Barker has enjoyed steady progress with the Greyhounds, as he reached state after going 0-2 at sectional at 145 as a freshman and 1-2 at district at 152 last year. He finished 12-17 as a freshman and 23-12 last season.
"(Coach Jay DiMasso) picked up the intensity in practice, getting us more conditioned and ready for this type of competition," Barker said.
DiMasso is hoping Barker's experience at state also will help motivate his teammates.
"Hunter coming here (to state) and the walk we did at the school will get some of the other kids excited about it and allows them to look and say, 'I want to do that, I want to be there, I want to train hard' and it gets them revved up a little bit," DiMasso said.
The Greyhounds qualified six other wrestlers for district, including senior Tanner Stevens, who went 2-2 at 220 to finish 38-10 for the season and 92-72 for his career. He was a three-time district qualifier.
"Tanner had a good career," DiMasso said. "He was a four-year starter (with) a lot of wins in his time. He wanted to be here (at state), but it wasn't in the cards."
Junior Justin Swavely went 2-2 at 138 to finish 38-6.
Sophomore Blake Stevens (132, 27-14) and freshman Taryn Martin (106, 20-14) each went 1-2 at district, and sophomore James Scalf (126, 16-11) and senior Chase Jones (160, 19-17) each went 0-2.
The Greyhounds finished 20th (34 points) behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Swavely and Tanner Stevens led Grove City in a 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at Upper Arlington, with both placing second as Grove City finished fifth (123.5) behind champion Dublin Coffman (212).
Other key wrestlers eligible to return include sophomores Jackson Kuhn (113, 12-21), Schuyler Marinelli (145, 28-16), Max Petty (195, 8-21) and Joey Woolard (heavyweight, 16-15) and freshman Nick Getz (182, 10-24).
Grove City went 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Gahanna and Pickerington Central for second behind Lancaster (5-0) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (1-4) and Pickerington North (0-5).
The Greyhounds lost to Lancaster 45-27 on Jan. 11 at home.
"Lancaster was the top team at district and they brought seven guys (to state), so that's a tough OCC battle and we wrestled them pretty well," DiMasso said.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
•Finishes: Tied for second in OCC-Ohio, fifth at sectional, 20th at district, did not score at state
•Seniors lost: Chase Jones and Tanner Stevens
•Key returnees: Hunter Barker, Taryn Martin, James Scalf, Blake Stevens and Justin Swavely