COLUMBUS — Eric Bartos knows it. The same goes for Joey Baughman and Aaron Naples.
All three made their third trip to the state tournament Thursday. None has yet to stand on the top step at Value City Arena.
In wrestling, the 16-man bracket doesn’t care about a resume. It has seen state champions come in and spit them out without any afterthought.
While all three have had various success at state, they’re all missing the one moniker all 672 qualifiers crave.
“I think being here a bunch of years is always going to help, but every time I come down here the nerves are high,” Bartos said. “There’s no way around it. There’s always good guys here.”
Bartos (126) has never gotten past the Division II quarterfinals without a loss, falling last year in the round of eight and finishing fourth. In 2015, the Buckeye senior lost right off the bat and finished seventh.
Sitting third in Medina County win totals (171) and needing one more win to tie the area record for wins in a season (Wadsworth’s Kagan Squire, 50), he knows what has happened in the past means nothing.
After beating Dayton Chaminade Julienne’s Isaiah Wortham on Thursday, he opens today with Girard’s Dakota McCloskey, but knows nothing is a sure thing.
“I have to go out there with confidence,” Bartos said. “That’s all. I go out there every year hoping I’ll make it through, this year no one is going to stop me. Nobody is so good that I can’t beat them. I’m taking it this year.”
Naples (195) has always started the day on the top of half of the D-I bracket in Columbus, but never escaped the day without a loss. The Brunswick senior didn’t place as a sophomore and reached the semifinals last year and finished sixth.
A winner over Pataskala Licking Heights’ L.A. Kelly to start, he has St. Edward’s Dakota Howard in the quarterfinals and knows how much he has to be ready to go this morning.
“Every match is going to get a little tougher,” Naples said. “Every match you win, the guy is going to have better technique and will be a little bit faster. It’s all about looking at that next match and saying, ‘OK. I have to get through here first.’ The first one is the most important one. Then, it’s the next match after that.”
Baughman (170) is a different animal, as he has reached the D-I semifinals his previous two years and is a heavy favorite to do it once again this season.
The Wadsworth junior has split decisions in the round of four and reached the state final last season, but lost to three-time state champion Kyle Lawson of Olentangy Liberty.
Standing on the raised mat with 13,202 fans fixated on his match, he fell 6-0.
It’s what has driven him this season as he looks to become the 21st state champion in school history.
“It makes me a lot hungrier,” Baughman said. “I still have the memory of that last match in my mind every day. I just keep it one match at a time. That’s what I’ve done in the past. I’m going to stick to that.”
On Thursday, Baughman knocked off Midview’s Alec Forrer and will face Elder’s Charles Sanders for the right to reach the round of four for the third straight season.
The three will be joined by a slew of Medina County wrestlers in the top half on the championship side when action gets underway today at 10 a.m.
Cloverleaf’s Caleb Cass (152) advanced to the quarters in D-II.
In Division I, Logan Heil (Brunswick, 120), Michael North (Wadsworth, 126), Luke Baughman (Wadsworth, 132), Brady Chrisman (Medina, 152), Cody Surratt (Wadsworth, 160), Alex Jones (Wadsworth, 182) and Jordan Earnest (Wadsworth, 285) all won opening round matches.
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.