Jesse Bowers finished his Upper Arlington wrestling career with the third-most wins in program history, having helped lead the Golden Bears to their first state team tournament while qualifying for the state individual tournament for the third consecutive year.
Those achievements were of little consolation, however, when the state tournament was postponed indefinitely by the OHSAA and ultimately canceled March 26 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"All of that's cool, but it wasn't the end goal," said Bowers, a senior who competed at 138 pounds this season. "It's just devastating. It's a low point for me, for sure."
UA was set to send four wrestlers to state when all remaining winter postseasons were postponed March 12, one day before the three-day wrestling tournament was to begin at Ohio State.
UA had four Division I state qualifiers for the second consecutive season, tying the previous program best in back-to-back seasons from 1987 and 1988. The Bears ended up with six state competitors last year because two alternates, David Sogh-omonyan and Jake Thomas, entered the field.
Soghomonyan, a senior, earned an automatic berth this season by finishing third at 170 in the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
The Bears' other state qualifiers were senior Daniel Beam (113) and junior Jacob Shanklin (132).
"It's a thing where you don't know what to say," coach Matt Stout said of a team meeting March 12 in which he notified his wrestlers of the postponement. "Every situation is different for every kid, whether they're just trying to place, whether they have a chance to place or whether they're trying to win a state championship."
Bowers, an Ashland recruit, hoped to win his first match at state in five tries. He was 40-6 this season and finished his UA career at 134-53, third on the Bears' all-time wins list behind 2009 graduate Kevin Drake (157-31) and 1998 graduate Joel Walker (142-21).
"That was one of my main goals all season and I never got to complete that goal," Bowers said. "There are different levels of how (the cancellation) bummed people out. Jacob was a first-time qualifier and now he has to wait. It's always good to get that experience of wrestling in that caliber of a meet. It's good to know how that works so you can improve yourself to get to that level."
Shanklin finished 39-10, Soghomonyan was 33-8 and Beam went 32-12.
Two more UA wrestlers won at least 30 matches in senior Mason McHugh (145, 33-12) and Thomas, a junior (120, 34-10).
Others eligible to return from a team that went 4-1 in the OCC-Central Division to place second behind Dublin Coffman (5-0) and finished first in the Region 6 team dual tournament Feb. 8 at Darby include sophomores Jake Badgeley (220, 22-14), Ayden Boothby (126, 29-15) and Frankie Mulligan (106, 27-16).
UA lost to Elyria 62-12 in a state team quarterfinal Feb. 16 at St. John Arena.
Junior Isa DiBenedetto saw some varsity time at 113 and finished third at 116 in the inaugural girls state tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Davidson.