The ability to not let the excitement or the pressure of the moment get to him has served Carson Kharchla well the last two years.
That isn't necessarily the easiest thing to accomplish for the Olentangy Liberty High School senior, who closed his prep career March 9 by winning a second consecutive Division I state championship at 170 pounds.
"I've got a lot of emotions," Kharchla said. "I don't show it too much on the mat, but I'm pretty emotional. I feel good, but it's not my first time here, so I've just got to keep that in mind."
Kharchla seemed to be in control throughout the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State, which features one of the nation's top college programs and is where Kharchla will compete next season.
After opening with an 18-3 victory over Cincinnati West Clermont's Matt Lewis, Kharchla pinned Wadsworth's Jon List in 1 minute, 37 seconds and then beat Kettering Fairmont's Nevan Snodgrass 5-1 in a semifinal.
In the championship dual, Kharchla had no trouble beating Shaker Heights' Najee Lockett 7-1.
After going 38-2 last season and then winning a junior freestyle national title last July, Kharchla went 31-0 this winter. He's the nation's No. 1 wrestler at his weight, according to InterMat.
Senior Connor Brady, a Virginia Tech recruit, came up just short of giving Liberty a championship at 160.
He opened state with a 24-8 win over Brecksville-Broadview Heights' Anthony Rizzo, pinned Perrysburg's Drew Newton in 5:21 and beat Wadsworth's Dom Loparo 16-5 to set up a showdown with Lakewood St. Edward sophomore Padraig Gallagher.
Brady, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation while Gallagher was No. 7, according to InterMat, led 3-1 but ended up losing 7-6 for his only setback in a 30-1 season.
"It's going to hurt for a while, but he'll bounce back and have a good college career at Virginia Tech," coach Mark Marinelli said.
Brady was a fourth-place finisher as a freshman and took third as a sophomore, but he wasn't able to compete in the postseason a year ago because of a broken hand.
"I really wanted to see him win that match, and it hurts you a lot, too, because that's your guy," Kharchla said. "You've been training in the room every day doing everything that you can, and you start to feel ultimately responsible, like did I not push him hard enough. ... But I love him to death, and there's nothing more I would have liked than to see him win."
The performances of Kharchla, Brady and sophomore Lucas Uliano, who finished seventh at 126, helped Liberty score an area-best 55 points and place seventh behind champion St. Edward (194.5) as 72 teams scored.
Uliano, who placed third in the Iowa state tournament as a freshman, opened state with a 1-0 victory over Berea-Midpark's Caden Wendling.
After getting pinned by St. Edward's Angelo Rini in 2:15 in a quarterfinal, Uliano pinned North Ridgeville's Jacob Dunstan in 1:29 to ensure placement. He lost to Toledo Whitmer's Jack Haskin 2-1 in the third round of consolation but beat Fairfield's Jabari Thomas 9-4 in the seventh-place match to finish 30-9.
"That was the goal this year, to get on the podium," Uliano said. "I wrestled all right. I could have wrestled a little bit better in some of my matches.
"Ohio's great. I love this place. The state tournament's hard, with a lot of great kids and good competition."
The Patriots' other state competitor was sophomore Jayce Fitzpatrick, who went 0-2 at 145 to finish 30-11.
"We've had a state champion five years in a row and a state (placer) the last nine years," Marinelli said. "The last four or five years have been really good. Keeping up to that level is pretty tough. I think we'll have some more guys at the state tournament next year. (Will they reach) Connor and Carson's level? Those guys only come around every once in a while."
The only other senior was Brady Kuhn, a district qualifier at heavyweight who finished 26-10.
The other district qualifiers were juniors Austin Bensman (138, 27-12), Ben Cox (195, 26-9), Ethan Stamp (152, 18-14) and Kaden Tong (220, 24-6) and sophomore Stephen Dirksmeier (182, 27-12).
Others eligible to return after competing at sectional are junior Nick Rutsky (106, 17-12) and sophomores Mark Ceddia (132, 15-11), Hunter Ford (113, 22-12) and Josh Sutton (120, 17-12).
Boys basketball team earns district title
For the second time in program history, the boys basketball team is headed to the Division I regional tournament.
Liberty, which captured a district title in 2012, plays Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal Thursday, March 14, at Ohio Dominican. The winner will face Pickerington North or Newark in the regional final Saturday, March 16, at the same site.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal March 22 at Ohio State.
In Liberty's only other regional appearance, it lost to eventual state-champion Central 60-58 in a semifinal.
"It's a good group and we're hungry," said coach Greg Nossaman, whose team is 22-4.
Liberty was the fourth seed for the district tournament and beat 22nd-seeded Westerville North 73-57 in a district semifinal March 6 at Centerburg as Ben Roderick scored 25 points, Nick Nakasian had 19 and Mitchell Kershner added 18.
Then on March 9 in a district final at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Roderick had 29 points and Nakasian and Henry Hinkle each scored 16 in a 72-65 victory over sixth-seeded Hilliard Davidson.
The Patriots lost to the Wildcats 64-62 on Jan. 22 while Kershner was out because of an injury.
"We're pretty good when we get the lead and make people come out and guard us," Nossaman said. "We're playing at a pretty high level, especially offensively, right now."
Central is 25-1 after edging Reynoldsburg 50-49 in a district final March 9. Jahvon Garcia had 14 points, Garner Wallace scored 12 and Coleton Landis added 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Tigers won their fourth consecutive district title and seventh in eight seasons.
If Liberty wins the semifinal, it would get a rematch against a team it previously defeated. The Patriots beat Pickerington North 75-64 on Jan. 26 and Newark 68-45 on Feb. 5.
North was 25-4 after beating Thomas Worthington 72-60 and Newark improved to 20-6 with a 64-53 win over Orange to set up their regional semifinal.
Drew Ballinger scored 20 points and KeShawn Heard had 14 for Newark in its district final, while Jack Sawyer had 22 points for North.