Although disappointed that he wasn't able to get his first experience at the Division I state tournament, Westerville North junior wrestler Jake Gooding understood the reasoning behind it.

The event was to take place March 13-15 at Ohio State, but it was postponed March 12 and canceled March 26 along with the remaining tournaments for boys basketball, girls basketball and hockey because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"This whole thing really sucks, but you have to put it in perspective," said Gooding, who went 3-1 at district to place second at 120 pounds and finished the season 32-5. "People's lives are at stake. One thing that I learned is that every match matters. As much as it hurts, I want this to motivate me and push me in the offseason because next year is my last chance."

Gooding was to be joined at state by classmates Brennan Albertini (195) and Nico Candido (160) and sophomore Connor Euton (138), who went unbeaten.

Euton won a district championship March 7 at Hilliard Darby, going 4-0 to improve to 37-0. He also qualified for state as a freshman and went 1-2 at 132.

"Being undefeated is amazing, but it's just a number," Euton said. "All that matters is what happens when you step on that line and go at it."

Albertini (12-1) finished third at district and Candido (27-17) was fourth. Both would have made their first state appearances.

"(Seven) of our (10) district qualifiers are expected back, and we have a deep freshman class," said coach David Grant, who completed his 16th season. "If we can get back to work in a couple months, I think this break will show kids how much they missed it.

"We're going to turn this into a blessing. Hopefully, it stokes their love of school and athletics and makes us better."

Also competing at district were seniors Jacob Grant (145, 19-7), John Holzapfel (heavyweight, 20-17) and Eli Williams (170, 21-11), junior Sylvester Bockarie (152, 24-15) and sophomores Dallas Reed (182, 17-11) and Edwin White (126, 16-2).

North defeated host Olentangy Liberty 41-29 on Feb. 13 to win its first league championship since 2016. It finished 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, ahead of the runner-up Patriots (4-1), who had won the previous three titles with the Warriors finishing second.

Senior Eli DeTemple (182), Williams and Jacob Grant, the coach's nephew, were first-team all-league. Holzapfel and senior Raymond Johnson (195) were on the third team.

"This is just a great group of seniors, most of whom I have known since they were in the second or third grade since my nephew was in the class," said Grant, who was the league's Coach of the Year. "It's been a great joy to watch them grow up to be fine men.

"They are a tested group. They had epic battles with Olentangy Liberty. They were just a talented class."

Albertini, Euton, Gooding, White and junior Gabe Ohle (113) were first-team all-league. Bockarie, Candido and junior Nate Morse (132) were on the second team.

Gooding said he learned a lot from the senior class about what it takes to be successful.

"I think we had a good senior class that showed us a lot of leadership," he said. "(Jacob Grant) and (Williams) were great leaders in the wrestling room, and I'll miss them next year."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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