When Connor Brady broke his left hand while drilling in September 2017, the injury was mild enough that there was no swelling and there would be plenty of time for recovery.
The timing couldn't have been much worse when the same injury occurred during a dual against Massillon Perry last season, considering Brady was just three weeks from beginning what was looking like his best chance to win a state championship for the Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling team.
The senior now is doing everything he can to make up for lost time.
Heading into the Patriots' dual Thursday, Jan. 31, at home against Delaware, Brady is 19-0 at 160 pounds and holds the No. 1 ranking in the nation at his weight, according to InterMat and FloWrestling.
"I'm No. 1 in the country so I should be able to win my state," Brady said. "It feels pretty good (to be ranked No. 1). That's always been a pretty high goal and I finally got it."
Brady and fellow senior Carson Kharchla, who is the defending state champion at 170 and also is ranked No. 1 in the nation at his weight, have helped the Patriots to a 3-0 start in the OCC-Buckeye Division. They close league action Feb. 7 at home against Westerville Central and Feb. 14 at Westerville North.
Liberty lost to Perry 37-30 on Jan. 25, but neither Kharchla nor Brady competed.
Brady went 5-0 the next day in the Grizzly Invitational at Wadsworth to capture the championship at 160, but Kharchla did not compete because of illness.
Despite Kharchla's absence, Liberty finished fifth (238.5) of 16 teams behind champion St. Paris Graham (368) as Brady pined all five of his opponents. Ben Cox (195) and Kaden Tong (220) both were runners-up, Lucas Uliano (126) was fifth and Jayce Fitzpatrick (145), Justin Callahan (182) and Brady Kuhn (heavyweight) all were sixth.
"(Brady and Kharchla are) both working hard," coach Mark Marinelli said. "They're getting after it and having good attitudes. We're trying to get the team to match up with those guys a little bit."
Both Kharchla and Brady competed for Team Ohio in the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and Cadet National Championships from July 14-20 in Fargo, North Dakota, with Kharchla winning the junior freestyle title at 170 and Brady finishing third at 152.
Brady's performance came just three weeks after he'd been cleared to begin competing.
The second time he broke his hand occurred during a 35-32 loss Feb. 2 of last season to Perry while he was facing David Carr, who would go on to win the state title at 152.
Brady, who was beating Carr 4-1 when the injury occurred, finished 19-1 on the season.
Brady, who lived in Gran-ville and Grove City during elementary school, attended the Graham school district from sixth through eighth grade before moving to Powell when he got to high school.
He went 46-5 and finished fourth at state at 132 as a freshman and followed with a 57-4 finish as a sophomore that included a 3-1 loss to Carr in the second round at state.
While Carr went on to win the title, Brady won all four of his matches in the backdraw and finished third overall.
Brady has committed to Virginia Tech over a list of schools that included Ohio State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Virginia and Northwestern.
"I've gotten a lot better in high school," he said. "(Kharchla and I) have made each other a lot better."
Boys swimmers win OCC; girls take fourth
The boys swimming and diving team easily won the OCC-Buckeye championship Jan. 26 at Thomas Worthington, scoring 506.5 points.
Capturing titles were Eli Grubbs in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 5.27 seconds), Alexander Wisler in the 50 freestyle (22.15) and 100 butterfly (53.95), John Bently in the 100 free (47.49), Jack Matthews in diving (565.95), the 200 medley relay of Bently, Isaac Iversen, Wisler and Grubbs (1:40.43), the 200 free relay of Iversen, Grubbs, Christian Hosler and Wisler (1:30.95) and the 400 free relay of Christopher Tracewell, Gavin Weis, Blake Overly and Andrew Gehring (3:24.75).
Finishing second were Bently in the 200 free (1:46.75), Hosler in the 50 free (22.54), Nick Sells in the 100 fly (56.75), Tracewell in the 500 free (5:09.48), Tyler Stoltman in the 100 backstroke (1:00.34) and Max Miller in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.98).
The girls scored 204 points to finish fourth behind champion Olentangy (276).
Winning titles were Kate Saczawa in the 50 free (25.16) and 100 back (59.73) and Olivia Lynch in diving (455.35). Finishing third were Hannah Beavers in the 100 fly (1:02.84) and the 200 medley relay of Saczawa, Lydia Colvin, Meggie Gehring and Holly Gabriel (1:57.16).
Girls basketball team 'working really hard'
The girls basketball team is doing what it can to simulate the challenges it might face in the Division I district tournament.
According to coach Sam Krafty, the Patriots approached their game against Orange on Jan. 18 like it was a second-round postseason contest. They then viewed their game Jan. 22 against Hilliard Davidson as a district semifinal and their game Jan. 25 against Westerville South like a district final.
After beating Orange 58-20, Liberty overcame a slow start to keep pace with Davidson before losing 43-38. The Patriots then battled South before falling 64-53.
The Patriots were seventh and South was tied for third in last week's area coaches poll.
"This time of year you're trying to get prepared for the tournament, so I presented a three-game tournament for the kids," Krafty said. "The kids have been very, very focused and have been working really hard. With all of our losses, the story has been the same: We've had a bad first quarter. The big thing we've been working on is trying to develop the leadership and the toughness piece. All the teams we've lost to have been very good teams, and we want to be one, too."
Liberty is 12-6 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Patriots play Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Newark, which was second in last week's area coaches poll and ninth in the state.
Teegan Pifher is averaging a team-high 12.5 points, with Abby Erickson, Kelly Levering and Trinity Ramos all averaging between six and eight points.
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 1 -- At Westerville North. The Patriots beat the Warriors 71-63 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- Home vs. Newark
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. North. The Patriots beat the Warriors 58-22 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- At Newark
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
*Feb. 5 -- Delaware at Sawmill Lanes
Feb. 4 -- At Hilliard Davidson with Berlin and Delaware
*Feb. 3 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Springfield
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 2 -- Columbus School for Girls Invitational