Despite having to replace eight 2019 graduates, the Hilliard Darby wrestling team challenged for the OCC-Cardinal Division championship and had one Division I state qualifier and five other district qualifiers.
A season removed from winning the league title with an experienced roster, the Panthers finished second (6-1) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Delaware (7-0) in large part to the efforts of juniors and underclassmen.
Darby had only two seniors in Ryan Blackerby and Caiden Rayburn.
"Taking second in our conference, that in itself was pretty impressive for me as a coach," coach Brendan Moody said. "We went into a couple of dual meets just not necessarily knowing how we were going to pull this off. We just had different kids step up every single meet. When it came to some OCC duals and other duals throughout the season, the team really competed in those events and that's really a testament to the kids pulling together and doing whatever they needed to do to try to get team victories. That's a little bit of what our program is."
The Panthers' lone state qualifier was junior Bradley Weaver (heavyweight). Weaver went 13-1 in the regular season despite missing time with a broken ankle. He then went 2-1 in a sectional Feb. 29 at Upper Arlington to place second and went 4-0 in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Darby, beating Dublin Scioto's Donovan Hardin 4-2 in double overtime in the final to win the district championship.
"It's a huge accomplishment for him to win a district title after not being able to compete for a couple of months," Moody said.
The state tournament was to be held March 13-15 at Ohio State, but was indefinitely postponed March 12 and ultimately canceled March 26 by the OHSAA because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Weaver, who finished the season 19-2, aspires to return to state next season.
"There's always next year," he said. "Thank God I'm a junior. Next year, I'll come back and try to get on the (state) podium.
"(I learned this year) that I have nothing to lose. If I just go out there and try my hardest, I'm going to do well. If I go out there scared, I'm not going to do as well."
The Panthers' other district qualifiers were Blackerby (132 pounds, 24-13), Rayburn (160, 8-8), juniors Blayne Barnes (220, 35-12) and Isaiah Beneker (170, 28-17) and freshman Colt Ryan (106, 35-10).
Ryan went 3-2 and placed fifth at district to be a state alternate.
"He had a fantastic freshman season," Moody said of Ryan, who earned first-team all-league honors. "He's definitely going to be a leader on and off the mat for us."
Junior Daoud Saadeh (126, 24-17), sophomore Nathan Morris (138, 31-12) and freshman Carter Slubowski (106/113, 14-5) also earned first-team all-league honors. Barnes was second-team all-league and Blackerby made the third team.