After the initial shock of learning he would not compete in the Division I state tournament subsided, Groveport Madison wrestler Jake Nelson thought less about his own season coming to an end than the other winter and spring athletes whose seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Nelson, a junior who competes at 220 pounds, was a first-time qualifier to state, which was scheduled for March 13-15 at Ohio State. That and all other remaining winter tournaments were postponed indefinitely March 12 by the OHSAA and canceled March 26.
"It's really weird. I'm disappointed not getting to wrestle at state, especially after all the time, effort and hard work," Nelson said. "I feel bad for the basketball players, too, who didn't get to finish their seasons and now we're looking at spring sports being affected. This affects them, too. It stinks, it really does."
Nelson went 45-3, coming off a second-place finish in the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, and is 121-15 in his career. He also was a sectional runner-up, losing to Dublin Coffman's Riley Ucker in the final at sectional and district.
"There's really nothing I, as a coach, could say (after state was postponed)," coach Brian Brison said. "He handled it well. He told me as a junior, he has another chance to get back to state, but this year's seniors don't and that's who he feels bad for. That bothered him as much as anything.
"I thought Jake had a great chance to place at state and so did he. We weren't just going up there for the experience. He did the work (to get to state). He just won't be a state participant. Nobody can take that achievement away from him."
Nelson admitted that the next week, waiting for word on whether the state tournament eventually would take place, was difficult.
"All I could do at that point was try to stay in shape and run. It's harder when you're not in the wrestling room," Nelson said. "This made me look at wrestling a little differently. I feel bad for the seniors who won't get their final shot at state, but for me, I got second place at district and I have room to improve. I just had to take a deep breath, step back and start working harder for next year."
One of the Cruisers' other three district qualifiers is eligible to return in freshman Derrick Sells (182). The other two were seniors Muhamad Conteh, who went 29-7 at 126 and placed sixth at district, and A.J. Joyce, who was 24-6 at 195.
Other expected returnees include junior Dylan Blackburn (138), sophomores Jacob Chilcote (132), Cohen Hartner (120), Jacob Johnston (145), Cameron Leitwein (160), Jordan Ramella (heavyweight) and Ryan Schieser (152) and freshman Tyler Brown (113).
Brown placed fifth at sectional, one spot shy of qualifying for district.
Groveport went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division, finishing second behind Big Walnut (5-0) to come up just short of its third consecutive league championship.
As he did this season, Brison expects Nelson to be a team leader again next winter.
"I'm just proud of the season Jake had," Brison said. "It didn't end like anyone could have imagined, but in the end, it's all about the journey."