It was a foundation-building season for the Worthington Kilbourne wrestling team.
The Wolves didn't accomplish a lot from a victory standpoint, failing to win any of their seven OCC-Cardinal Division duals.
However, they qualified three wrestlers for the Division I district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, developed younger competitors and took steps that they hope will pay dividends down the road.
Seniors Jay Thompson (220 pounds, 39-8) and Sean Hoffman (138, 20-19) and sophomore Iain Rojas (152, 23-18) competed at district.
"A lot of the guys, they really felt they had a good connection top-to-bottom with the seniors. And the younger guys, they really enjoyed the time they spent together at tournaments," coach Jose Martinez said. "I've gotten a lot of positive feedback.
"They knew we fell short on the goals we wanted, but they understand they learned a lot. They know what they have to do to get better, they had good leadership from the seniors and they're part of the family now."
The Wolves lose six seniors in Hoffman, Andrew Galloway (170, 2-17), Alex Rader (145, 9-20), Andrew Rice (160, 11-23), Mason Smith (145, 10-10) and Thompson.
Thompson was aiming for a second consecutive berth to the state tournament, which was scheduled for March 13-15 at Ohio State but was postponed and later canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
A University of Indianapolis commit, Thompson ended up going 3-3 at district and placing sixth. He was named first-team all-league.
"I told Jay (that he) still did a lot of good things for our program," Martinez said.
Rojas, who was second-team all-league, projects to be the centerpiece for the Wolves next season.
"He's coming back and he's a good worker," Martinez said. "So I have high hopes for him (over) the next couple of years. He'll probably be our anchor."
Rojas went 3-2 in a sectional Feb. 29 at Marysville, finishing fourth, before going 1-2 at district.
"I learned that conditioning is a big factor and I need to work on that a little more," he said. "I feel like that's going to give me those high-priority matches."
Hoffman was third-team all-league.
Other expected key returnees include freshman Noah Adams (126, 1-11), junior Jorge Carbajal (195, 2-14), freshman Christian Leis (132, 3-15), sophomore Malcolm Saas (113, 2-19) and freshman Zane Swackhammer (182, 1-7).
In regards to the returnees, Martinez said it's going to be all hands on deck next year with the loss of six wrestlers to graduation.
"Right now, everybody's key because our numbers are low," he said. "When you have 17 guys and you lose six, I'm hoping everybody comes back."
Martinez said the Wolves' revitalized youth program will be a key factor in the growth of the high school program in the years ahead.
The youth program, led by coach Marcus Jameyson, had about 10 participants last year but now has roughly three times that number. Martinez hopes this opens a pipeline to the varsity team.
"One of the silver linings (to this season) is getting the youth program going and getting 30 kids in there," Martinez said. "We're trying to hit the youth side of things really well."