Bradley Weaver of the Hilliard Darby wrestling team battled through double overtime to win the heavyweight championship in the Division I district tournament held March 6 and 7 on the Panthers' home mats.
The junior defeated Dublin Scioto's Donovan Hardin 4-2 in the final to win the district title and advance to the state tournament, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
"It feels awesome," said Weaver, who went 4-0 at district and is 19-2 on the season. "All my extra work I put in after practice, it's starting to pay off now. I'm starting to reach my peak."
Weaver was dominant in his first district appearance. He won a 7-2 decision over Pickerington Central's Garrett Meek in the first round March 6 and followed with a 5-0 decision victory over Olentangy Liberty's Jadon Brownlee in a quarterfinal that same day.
Then on March 7, Weaver won a 6-5 decision over Big Walnut's Max Lenz in a semifinal to advance to the championship match.
"It's my first time here at districts so I was a little nervous coming in," Weaver said. "But I knew I'm not going to go in scared; I'm going to go in ready to fight and have nothing to lose."
Weaver missed a portion of the regular season with a broken ankle but bounced back strong, going 2-1 in a sectional Feb. 29 at Upper Arlington to finish second and advance to the district tournament.
"I couldn't be more thrilled for him," coach Brendan Moody said. "He's battled the injury bug like crazy... and he just keeps showing up every day with a smile on his face and puts in the work. The fact that he came out on top against a really quality kid from Scioto ... I couldn't be more thrilled for him."
Weaver could be joined at state by freshman Colt Ryan (106), who went 3-2 and placed fifth at district to be a state alternate.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Ryan, who is 35-10 on the season, opened district with a 3-0 decision over Franklin Heights' Jaiden Reed and pinned Watkins Memorial's Gavyn Louks in 4 minutes, 24 seconds in a quarterfinal. The next day, he lost an 11-3 major decision to Westerville Central's David Javier in a semifinal and lost a 5-1 decision to Olentangy Berlin's Evan Butcher before rebounding to post a 1-0 decision over Big Walnut's Andrew Parker in the fifth-place match.
"It just takes a lot of fortitude and focus to come so close to going to the state tournament and be able to kind of pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and put together a fifth-place match with a lot of heart and a lot of hustle," Moody said. "That's really good to see"
Also competing at district for Darby were seniors Ryan Blackerby (132, 2-2) and Caiden Rayburn (160, 1-2) and juniors Blayne Barnes (220, 1-2) and Isaiah Beneker (170, 1-2).
The Panthers finished 12th (46 points) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Bowlers end season at district tourney
The bowling teams concluded their seasons in the 16-team Division I district tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes.
The boys team finished 10th (3,505) behind champion DeSales (3,901) and the girls finished 16th (2,425) behind champion Westerville Central (3,599).
At district, the top three boys teams and top three boys individuals not on a qualifying team and the top four girls teams and top four girls individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state tournament March 6 and 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Senior Michael Beard led the boys team, finishing 22nd of 109 bowlers with a 556 three-game series. Senior Josh Larsen (31st, 541) and juniors Will Mifsud (57th, 498) and Zach Brandewie (60th, 490).
Sophomore Emily Decker led the girls team, finishing 62nd (394) of 108 bowlers. Juniors Lyndsey Seagraves (65th, 390) and Sarah Leming (71st, 347) also rolled three games.
Brandewie and Larsen both made first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division. Also earning all-league honors for the boys team were Beard (second team), Seagraves (third team) and senior David Maleh (third team).