Battered and bruised, Keegan Knapp showed the battle scars of a difficult district tournament.
The sophomore for the Olentangy Orange wrestling team placed fifth at 132 pounds in the Division I district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
Standing on the awards podium, Knapp's right eye was swollen shut and bruising started to appear above his left eye. An alternate for the state tournament that runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State, he now plays a waiting game to see if his season will be extended another week.
"I thought it went pretty good even though I got some scars here," said Knapp, who went 3-2 at district to improve to 30-8 on the season. "I think I'm going to continue my diet and get down (to weight) again. It would be kind of nice to be able to make it in."
Knapp received the "mouse" above his right eye after literally butting heads with his opening-round opponent, Hilliard Bradley's Deacon Sawchuk. Despite the incident, he earned a 21-13 major-decision victory.
"In my first match, me and (Sawchuk) kind of hit heads," Knapp said. "It kind of started as a bubble and it spread along my face. It's kind of hard to see out of this (right) eye and it's starting to spread. It's kind of like boxing at this point."
Coach Scott Tressler said Knapp showed the determination of a warrior.
"Keegan showed his warrior mentality to keep plugging through," Tressler said. "He didn't get the result he wanted (to qualify for state), but he kept working hard. He was a j.v./varsity guy last year and he made big strides this year."
The Pioneers had eight wrestlers at district, where they finished 16th (37 points) behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Senior Tristan Bluntschly (170) and junior Geoffrey Kaminski (195) both went 3-3 and placed sixth.
Also competing were seniors Ian Krider (145, 0-2) and Cardan Mutai (220, 2-2), juniors Dylan Dempsey (182, 2-2) and Zach Miller (138, 1-2) and sophomore Connor Svantner (152, 0-2).
Hockey team had bounce-back season
The hockey team rebounded from its first losing season since its inaugural 2008-09 campaign, finishing 22-12 overall after losing to third-seeded Liberty 7-4 in a district semifinal March 1 at Chiller North.
The sixth-seeded Pioneers had 20-plus victories for the first time since going 26-5-2-2 in 2014-15 and were trying to reach their first district final since 2014. They finished 13-14-0-2 last season and 2-12-0-1 in 2008-09.
"They are solid kids, but the best part of this team has been their unselfishness," second-year coach J.D. Damrath said. "Ice time was not always equal, but our third line was on that bench cheering as long and hard as anyone. That's just a character thing that we had in this locker room."
Orange also earned its first CHC title since 2014 by winning the White Division. The Pioneers went 11-5 (22 points) in league play as Berlin (20, 10-6) and Cincinnati Moeller (20, 9-5-1-1) tied for second.
Junior forward Clayton Headlee was the team's leading scorer with 35 goals and 55 assists for 88 points and was named second-team all-CHC and first-team all-CHC-White.
The Pioneers are losing nine seniors in forwards Luke Clifford (3 goals, 2 assists), Cam Cush (9 goals, 7 assists), Nathan Hazel (8 goals, 10 assists), Blake Messenger (7 goals, 5 assists), Cam Miller (35 goals, 23 assists), Jake Morrone (26 goals, 24 assists) and Eddie Muller (5 goals, 21 assists), defenseman Aaron Johnson (first-team CHC-White; 7 goals, 16 assists) and goaltender Carter Goodknight (.861 save percentage).
"Every year when you graduate the seniors, everyone wonders how you're going to replace them, and it's so true," Damrath said. "They made so many contributions to us this season and helped raise the level of the program."
Joining Headlee as top expected returnees for next season are junior forwards Austin Knupp (36 goals, 39 assists) and Payton Muth (23 goals, 20 assists), junior defenseman Ethan Muth (2 goals, 15 assists), sophomore defenseman Grant Hendrickson (6 goals, 10 assists) and sophomore goalie Kyle Diehr (.884 save percentage).
"We have some really talented guys coming back," Damrath said. "We'll pull it back together and see what we can do."
Bowlers end season at district
The bowling teams competed in the 16-team Division I district tournament Feb. 29 at HP Lanes, but neither had any state qualifiers.
The boys team finished 13th (3,460) behind champion DeSales (3,901) and the girls team was 15th (2,525) 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 Jake Norz led the boys team at district, rolling a 532 three-game series to finish 34th of 109 bowlers. Senior Tanner Davidson (tied for 49th, 510), junior Marcus Turner (tied for 57th, 498) and sophomore Jake Burre (70th, 448) also rolled three games for Orange.
Sophomore Eve Wicks led the girls team, rolling a 467 to finish 21st of 108 bowlers). Senior Raymie Shields (49th, 423) and sophomore Lauren Berend (75th, 316) also rolled three games for the Pioneers.
In the OCC-Buckeye, Turner (192.2 average) was first-team all-league and sophomore Nick Kicas (180.8) was honorable mention for the boys and Shields (165.3) was first-team all-league, Wicks (153.2) was second team and Berend (140.7) was honorable mention for the girls.