Dez Gartrell will represent the Hilliard Davidson wrestling team in the Division I state tournament that runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
It will be the first state appearance for the sophomore, who is only in his third year competing in the sport.
Gartrell earned a state berth by finishing fourth at 152 pounds in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Darby. Last season, he went 0-2 at district at 145.
"I've been thinking about this since last year, working hard, putting in the work all summer, just for this moment," Gartrell said of qualifying for state. "I didn't want (last season) to end like that, but that's what comes in wrestling. I'm really excited that I made it."
Gartrell went 3-2 at district and is 42-6 on the season. He opened district by pinning Westerville North's Sylvester Bockarie in 1 minute, 58 seconds and beat Pickerington Central's Marcus Zullo 4-3 in a quarterfinal before losing to eventual champion and four-time state qualifier Daniel Segura of Dublin Scioto in a semifinal by technical fall, 18-3.
Gartrell was trailing Olentangy Berlin's Israel Foston 6-3 in a consolation match to secure a state berth when Foston suffered an arm injury and had to default. Gartrell then was pinned by Reynoldsburg's Noah Ratliff in 3:05 in the third-place match.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced to state.
"It's definitely a tough way to (advance), but I'm extremely happy for him," coach Chris Kline said. "Everything he's worked for and all the hard work and all the time he's put in has really paid off. ... He started in eighth grade. He's just a phenomenal athlete and he's very focused and it's paid off."
"I didn't think I could make it this far at the time," Gartrell said, referring to when he first began competing in eighth grade. "When you start wrestling, you're doing something new and then you learn there's more to it. Once you get into wrestling and you learn there's district, sectional and state, you want to keep going."
Kline said Gartrell was introduced to the state atmosphere last season when he accompanied the team to watch 2019 graduate Luke DeWeese compete at 152.
"The great thing is when we took Luke last year, Dez came with us, so he got to see that and watch Luke compete," Kline said. "He hasn't competed in the event yet, but he's been there and he's seen it, so we just have to keep him ready."
Also competing at district were freshman Richard Lawrence, who went 2-2 at 182, and freshman Wyatt Moore, who went 1-2 at 120.
Davidson tied Gahanna for 26th (20 points) behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Boys coach finds positives in season
Boys basketball coach Tim Congrove believes there were highlights during the season even though his team finished 4-19 overall.
The season ended Feb. 28, when the 42nd-seeded Wildcats lost at fifth-seeded Pickerington North 51-34 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
"It's obviously not the way we wanted the season to go record-wise," said Congrove, whose team went 20-6 and reached a district final last season. "It's tough ending a season the last time being together with that same group, but the seniors did a good job keeping everybody focused every day. We're definitely going to miss them. It was a lot different this year, but we got a lot better from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
Davidson lost 10 players from last season to graduation as well as senior Gage Keys, who chose not to play this season because he graduated in January.
In addition, the Wildcats lost two key contributors to injuries, as senior guard Evan Tekancic played just four games because of a torn labrum and junior center Jack Simon was limited to 10 games because of a dislocated kneecap.
Sophomore guard Ryan Paris, who also missed time with a wrist injury, averaged a team-high 10.6 points and was named second-team all-OCC-Central Division, as the Wildcats finished 2-8 in the league.
Sophomore guard Jonathan Weir averaged 7.9 points and was special mention all-league and senior center Paul Koppenhoefer was honorable mention all-league.
Also eligible to return are juniors Jack Fantin (forward), Jayden Humphrey (guard), Austin Lippolis (guard) and Graham McClellan (guard).
"We had high expectations," Congrove said. "Success can be defined a lot of different ways. We got a lot better this year, but if you're just specifically looking at records, that was obviously not anywhere close to where we wanted to be. We had a lot of opportunities throughout the year where we put ourselves in position to win games in fourth quarters. We didn't quite get over that hump, but that's a learning process."
The Wildcats will compete in the OCC-Central next season with Bradley, Dublin Coffman, Olentangy Orange, Olentangy Liberty and Upper Arlington.
Curry bowls at district tourney
Senior Cameron Curry ended his only season with the boys bowling team in the Division I district tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes, where he rolled a 461 three-game series to finish 68th of 109 bowlers.
"My experience was a lot of fun," Curry said. "I wish I would have started bowling a lot earlier than my senior year. All the people that came out and bowled this year made bowling a lot of fun. I was very shocked, yet extremely excited when I qualified for district. I did not think I was going to qualify in my first year of bowling."
Curry led the Wildcats during the regular season with a 175.3 average, followed by senior Dominic Williams (164.9) and junior Kaden Miller (162.2).
Others eligible to return are juniors Ben Curry, Luke Hand and Owen Savage and freshman Josh Crawford.
The girls team closed its season at the sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.
Junior CiCi Keidel led Davidson with a 151.8 average, followed by seniors Riley Wolfinger (151.7) and Laurel King (151).
In the OCC-Central, Keidel, King and Wolfinger were second-team all-league.
Others eligible to return are junior Liesel Kehrle and freshman Maggie Tighe.