A silent building houses reminders of what was to happen but didn't.

Signs of encouragement with crepe paper streamers were positioned in the hallways at Olentangy Berlin for senior Corey Hill and freshman Evan Butcher, who were set to be the wrestling team's first representatives in the Division I state tournament.

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.

"It's interesting sometimes to see how a community can come out to support even a couple of kids," second-year coach Josh Heffernan said. "It seems like half of the community, half of the students, half of the administrators were going to be there to watch.

"Berlin has a great following. It would have been great to see a big sea of double blue that might have been in the stands at state. They get in their sections and they erupt when your wrestler wins. That's part of the ambiance of the state wrestling tournament. That would have been nice for them."

Hill qualified for state for the first time by placing second at 160 pounds in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby. He went 3-1 at district, falling to Westerville South's Aaron Morton 7-4 in the championship match to finish the season 40-8.

Butcher went 4-2 and placed fourth at district at 106 to finish 20-7.

"I'm done with (high school) sports since I don't have a spring sport," Hill said. "It's tough to expect them to extend the season a month and have everyone make weight. Even if they would give weight allowances, everyone will be burnt out by then.

"We were at the peak of our season and doing our best wrestling. It's tough to deal with (the state tournament being canceled) after all of the work we have put in."

Butcher would have liked to have had the chance to gain state experience as a freshman to help in the coming seasons. However, that wasn't his concern.

"It's a situation that we can't really control," Butcher said. "It sucks not only for us, but really for the seniors because this is their last year and they can't go again."

Heffernan wasn't thrilled with the OHSAA's decision to cancel the state tournament, but understands why it was made.

"If the nation is going to get through this, everyone has to do their part," he said. "That means everyone will have some kind of inconvenience."

Berlin nearly had a third state qualifier, as senior Israel Foston (152) dislocated his right elbow in his state-qualifying consolation match against Hilliard Davidson's Dez Gartrell.

Foston was leading 6-3 in the third period when his elbow popped out of place as he was bracing for a fall. The Campbellsville University recruit was forced to default. He went 3-2 at district to finish 30-12.

Sophomore Matt Kirsop (220, 22-19) and freshman Jacob Tompkins (195, 14-8) also competed at district. Kirsop went 2-2 and Tompkins went 1-2.

The Bears went 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to finish fifth behind champion Delaware (7-0).

Hill, Foston and sophomore Kody Goffin (132) made first-team all-league and Tompkins and sophomore Caiden Hooks (145) were third-team all-league.

"Corey and Evan had their success (at district), but that will have a ripple effect as the other guys work to be the next ones in line (to go to state)," Heffernan said. "It's a big part of the culture we are trying to build. When you get that success, that helps with the buy-in."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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