Bexley senior Carter Brenner won his opening-round match in the Division II district wrestling tournament held March 6 and 7 at Wilmington, but the 138-pounder fell short of his goal of qualifying for state.
Brenner would lose his next two matches to finish 27-8. Despite having concluded his career with the Lions, he had an optimistic outlook.
"It's disappointing, but you'll always have adversity that you have to fight through," he said. "You can't lay down. You have to prove yourself in the battles and the adversity that you face. You have to focus on the things that you can control."
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
Brenner suffered injuries to both hamstrings during his junior football season, forcing him to sit out wrestling until the Marion Harding Invitational over the holiday break. He went 1-2 in the event but followed that up by injuring his right rotator cuff during practice, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.
Making the most of his final prep season, Brenner won his weight class in a sectional held Feb. 28 and 29 at Licking Valley, defeating London's Ethan James 7-5 in the final.
"We're proud because he didn't get to wrestle (much) last season," fifth-year coach Chris Bragg said. "He's a great leader and a good wrestler. He leads by example and it's hard to lose a kid like him."
Also at sectional for Bexley, sophomore Turan Rai was fifth at 113.
Brenner was the lone senior for the Lions, who finished second (82) in the MSL-Ohio Division tournament Feb. 15 at home behind Buckeye Valley (83). Brenner and freshmen Izaya Faulkner (160), Ezra Kerns (170) and Clifford Padmore (182) won league titles, while Rai, sophomores Blake Brenner (120) and Jeremiah Clinton (132) and freshman Zeke Poulos (126) were runners-up.
"We have six or seven solid freshmen and another five or six pretty good sophomores," Bragg said. "Unless we can talk some football players or other kids to come out, we won't have any seniors next year.
"They're all good kids. We have 20 eighth-graders and it would be nice to have that many freshmen next year. We're up and coming right now."
Boys basketball team falls in district semi
After strong performances in its first two Division II district tournament contests, the boys basketball team hit a roadblock against top-seeded Jonathan Alder in a district semifinal March 4 at Hamilton Township.
The 18th-seeded Lions started slow against an aggressive Pioneers defense and lost 48-26, ending the season at 7-18 overall.
"We didn't play well," fifth-year coach Todd Phillips said. "Alder is a good defensive team, but we were passive at both ends.
"They got physical and we got back on our heels. Our defense was awful and we can't score if we don't guard. They get up 10 (points) on you and it feels like 20."
Senior guard Damian Davis led the Lions with 12 points and senior post player Bryan Williams added 10.
The Lions earned road victories against better-seeded teams in the first two rounds, defeating ninth-seeded Watterson 42-38 on Feb. 26 and 17th-seeded Lakewood 54-50 on Feb. 29.
Bexley finished 0-12 in the MSL-Ohio.
Davis was second-team all-district and first-team all-league, leading the Lions in scoring (18.2 points per game), assists (2.8), steals (1.2), free-throw shooting (112-for-153, 73.2 percent) and 3-point shooting (65-for-180, 36.1 percent).
"Damian has been a trademark of what we have done for three years," Phillips said. "He played a ton as a sophomore and has been a great player and a great leader for us. He was infinitely patient for us.
"The other four seniors were great at carrying out their individual roles. You hurt for them when the season ends, whether you won 17 or you won seven."
Williams averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Bexley expects to return three sophomore starters in post player Tucker Harpe (4.2 points, 4.1 rebounds), forward Chris Mitchell (honorable mention all-league; 5.7 points, team-high 5.2 rebounds) and guard Cade Phillips (6.0 points), who is the coach's son.
"Certainly we knew we were going to rebuild a bit this year and the tournament was great," coach Phillips said. "I told them I was happy that they got to experience over the past couple of weeks what basketball was supposed to feel like. That's because we practiced right and they were rewarded for it. We just picked a bad night to have a bad night."