As Corey Hill put the finishing touches on a 9-2 victory in a semifinal match at 160 pounds in the Division I district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, he made history for the Olentangy Berlin wrestling program.
The senior became the first Bears wrestler to qualify for the state tournament, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
Hill went 3-1 and finished runner-up at district, falling to Westerville South's Aaron Morton 7-4 in the final. He will be joined at state by freshman teammate Evan Butcher, who placed fourth at 106.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
"It was good and exciting," said Hill, who is 40-8 on the season. "I've had a great season so far, but I still have work to do.
"I think the biggest thing I can take from (qualifying for state) is to go as hard as I can. It's the last little stretch of wrestling for me."
Coach Josh Heffernan said Hill's hard work has paid off.
"Corey has really come a long way," Heffernan said. "We gave him a big challenge over the summer and he just responded. He is wrestling at such a fast pace and staying in such good position."
Butcher went 4-2 at district to improve to 20-7 on the season. He was pinned by Teays Valley's Gunner Havens in 1 minute, 33 seconds in the third-place match.
"It's pretty cool and a great accomplishment to be a freshman and go to state, because not a lot of people get to do that," Butcher said. "It was definitely one of my big goals and it's great to get a chance to do that."
Heffernan wasn't surprised Butcher was able to advance to state.
"Evan was a good wrestler in middle school, but that doesn't always equate to being good in high school," said Heffernan, whose team finished 11th (50 points) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored. "He took some lumps this season and had to learn the ropes and polish some things. He did what was necessary to move on."
Unfortunately for senior Israel Foston, his season came to an abrupt end at district, as he suffered a dislocated right elbow in his state-qualifying consolation match at 152 against Hilliard Davidson's Dez Gartrell. Foston, who went 3-2 at district and finished the season 30-12, was leading 6-3 in the third period when the injury occurred, forcing a default.
"Izzy built a lead and (Gartrell) went for a throw and Izzy landed funny on his right arm, dislocating his elbow and you can't wrestle after that," Heffernan said. "Izzy has the heart of a lion. He knew his goal was in sight and it vanished just like that. It was his match to go to state. It was a first for me as a coach to have a season end like that. It was terrible."
Also competing at district were sophomore Matt Kirsop (220, 2-2) and freshman Jacob Tompkins (195, 1-2).
Hockey team showed improvement
The hockey team improved on its inaugural season, finishing 21-10 overall after losing to third-seeded Liberty 4-1 in a district quarterfinal Feb. 29 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The Bears, who were seeded seventh, finished 11-13-1-1 last season.
Berlin went 10-6 (20 points) in CHC play to tie Cincinnati Moeller (20, 9-5-1-1) for second in the CHC-White Division behind Orange (22, 11-5).
The Bears are losing three seniors in defenseman Layne Comyns (first-team CHC-White; 11 goals, 8 assists) and forwards Andrew Rogers (honorable mention all-CHC-White; 20 goals, 34 assists) and Tanner Shimp.
"Our seniors meant a lot in terms of leadership and maturity," second-year coach Tim Pennington said. "At this age in high school, there is just no substitute for having seniors and we only had three good ones from a physical part, from a maturity part. They helped to stabilize us this year."
Expected key returnees next season include the Bears' leading scorer in sophomore forward Carson Jankowski (first-team CHC-White; 32 goals, 28 assists) and sophomore goaltender Josh Chmielewski (honorable mention all-CHC-White; .897 save percentage).
Also expected back are juniors Henderson Bishop (forward; 10 goals, 2 assists), Cole Mascari (forward; 7 goals, 8 assists) and Dan Neverov (defenseman; 4 goals, 9 assists), sophomores Luke DeChristopher (defenseman; 6 goals, 5 assists), Tyler Ebare (forward; 12 goals, 19 assists), Nick Piccioni (forward; 7 goals, 12 assists), Zach Rainey (defenseman; 4 goals, 7 assists) and Zack Zielinski (forward; 9 goals, 10 assists) and freshman Zach Rogers (defenseman; 5 goals, 5 assists).
Bowlers end season at district
Bella Bland and Jacoby Oliverio competed in the Division I district bowling tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes, but neither advanced to state.
Oliverio, a sophomore, tied for 40th of 109 boys bowlers with a 520 three-game series, while Bland, a junior, was 48th of 108 girls bowlers with a 438. The top three boys and the top four girls not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament March 6 and 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
In the OCC-Cardinal, Bland (165.0 average) was second-team all-league for the girls team and freshman Aaron Shoaf (179.0) made the third team for the boys.
Senior Eve Pennington (148.7) and sophomore Michele Starner (144.1) were other top bowlers for the girls team and senior Logan Wright (174.5), Oliverio (167.5), senior Hunter Kraft (167.2) and junior Mason D'Amore (166.6) were leaders for the boys.