Although they weren't able to compete in the Division I state tournament, Westland wrestling coach Brent Allerding hopes the experience of qualifying provides Bryson Palmer and Jakob Hurley with motivation for the future.
Palmer (126 pounds) and Hurley (145) were set to compete March 13-15 at Ohio State, but the state tournament was postponed March 12 and canceled March 26 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"It is very frustrating not having the state tournament," Allerding said. "However, health and safety come first. The hardest part was probably going through (March 13) and thinking: 'We should be in weigh-ins now. We should be warming up now. We should be wrestling now.' So many dreams have been altered and opportunities missed, which is very unfortunate.
"On a positive side, at least we completed districts and were fortunate to have the experience of Bryson and Jakob qualifying for state."
The last time the Cougars had two state qualifiers was 2005, when Jake Farrell (119) and Chad Barga (145) advanced. Farrell went on to finish eighth and Barga went 0-2.
Westland's last state qualifier was Chris Brogan, who went 0-2 at 215 in 2007.
"Bryson and Jakob were obviously upset that they couldn't wrestle in the state tournament, but neither of them are seniors and they will have opportunities again next season," Allerding said. "They are both returning captains for our team, which means we are expecting big things in terms of leadership from them going forward."
Palmer, a junior, earned his state berth by placing third at district March 7 at Hilliard Darby. He finished the season 41-8.
"This was an experience that a lot of people are going to miss out on," Palmer said of the state tournament. "We were really looking forward to it. I'm just looking forward to what's next to come. I'd like to go back and place or take the title."
Hurley, a sophomore, also finished third at district to close the season 37-6.
"It just stinks because this is the tournament that every wrestler wanted to make, especially for the seniors who can't wrestle in it," Hurley said. "It's very disappointing. My goal for the season was to make it to the state tournament and not to be able to wrestle in it is heartbreaking. At least I have two more years and Bryson has another year to make it back."
Hurley and Palmer both won sectional titles Feb. 29 at Upper Arlington.
Westland's other district qualifiers were sophomores Tyler Jude (113, 36-15) and Trent Jude (120, 27-9) and senior Johnny Douglas (152, 26-19).
Westland went 2-3 in the OCC-Central Division to finish fourth behind champion Dublin Coffman (5-0). The Cougars defeated Hilliard Davidson 35-33 on Jan. 16 and Central Crossing 40-37 on Jan. 30.
"I thought we continued to grow this season and qualifying multiple wrestlers to state was an outstanding accomplishment for not only Bryson and Jakob but the whole team," Allerding said.
Hurley said Allerding has made a big difference in his two seasons leading the program.
"I love the way he pushes us," Hurley said. "Next year hopefully we can get more state qualifiers, which will be very good for Westland. We have the potential."
Next season, Westland will compete in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central.