A pair of one-point losses at last year's district tournament prevented Oak Harbor's Drew Stone from qualifying for the state tournament.
Stone, a junior who qualified for state as a freshman, said those close losses at the district tournament "hurt."
"That," he said, "was mostly all my motivation this year."
Prior to this season, Stone certified with the Ohio High School Athletic Association in the 112-pound weight class, but he ended up wrestling at 119 and nearly pulled off a state title. He was the 10th-ranked 112-pounder in the Brakeman Report.
"I gained weight and weighed 138 before the season," Stone said. "I got down to 112 and I was too weak to wrestle there, so I went to 119 and stayed there."
Stone won sectional and district titles this season and was joined at last week's state tournament by Oak Harbor teammates Mike Mallernee, a junior, and sophomores Ian Miller and Konner Witt.
Despite having just four wrestlers, the Rockets scored 46 points to take fifth place in Division II in Columbus. Stone finished second at 119 pounds, while Miller (45-3) took third at 135 and Mallernee (36-11) was eighth at 160. Witt (38-9) came up one match short of placing.
"I was ecstatic," Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. "We finished second last year and third the year before, and we had three individuals who all ended up earning scholarships at the Division I (college) level. To come back this year with no seniors starting and finish fifth in the state, that was beyond my expectations. I was hoping to finish in the top 10.
"It shows what kind of kids we have in our program and what kind of competitors they are. The great thing is, we have them all back next year and we have higher goals for next year."
Stone, who finished 39-3 and is 103-22 for his career, will have another heartbreaking one-point loss to think about in the off season.
Stone reached the state finals against top-ranked Johnni DiJulius of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. It proved to be a defensive struggle, one that Stone lost by a 1-0 decision.
"DiJulius was a state runner-up as a freshman last year, so we knew it was going to be a tough match," Bergman said. "Basically, the guy hung on (Stone's) leg for two minutes. Usually you get a stall call there. That's part of the sport. You want to try to keep the refs out of it. We were real impressed with how Drew wrestled all weekend. To be an eyelash away from winning the whole thing, we were real proud of him."
Stone, who prides himself on being a strong third-period wrestler, trailed 1-0 entering the third period against DiJulius but couldn't muster any offense.
"I chose down, so I was down the whole period," he said. "He went down to my ankle and held on for dear life. I couldn't get him off my ankle. I went down to the mat and tried to get out that way. I should have stayed on my feet. He was being smart and didn't let me to get out to win the match. I would have done the same thing."
Stone said his 9-7 semifinal win over second-ranked James Inghram from University School gave him confidence for the finals.
"I figured I could wrestle with the best," Stone said. "That's when I figured I could beat DiJulius. I got taken down 20 seconds into the (semifinal) match, but he got tired and I kept pushing him. I took him down once in the second period and twice in the third period."
Stone said he plans to wrestle non-stop over the summer to prepare for next season. He'd like to finish his career with at least one state title, two fewer than his mentor and good friend, Cody Magrum. The three-time state champ from Oak Harbor is now wrestling at Ohio State.
"When I came into high school he kind of took me under his wing and showed me the ropes," said Stone, who also plays soccer for the Rockets. "I went everywhere with him my freshman and sophomore year. He was basically my brother. I have a T-shirt that says 'Magrum's brother' on the back. Everybody jokes about it. I always strive to be as good as him."