The journey starts in earnest this weekend.
After four months of battling through the regular season, wrestlers will see who can grind their way to the pinnacle at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament March 8-10.
Sectional tournaments started last night and continue today at several sites with the top four in each weight class advancing to the district tournament next weekend.
For some, the road is a familiar one they will be taking one last trip down. For others, it is the start of what may be for the next three years.
“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold,” wrestling legend Dan Gable said. “They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”
Here are some things to watch as the Month of Champions begins:
Graham goes for 18: After bumping up and conquering the Division I field in the state team tournament, the Falcons are back at Division II for the individual tournament and looking for its 18th consecutive state title.
To put that in perspective, some of Graham’s seven seniors were not born when the Falcons began the run in 2001.
Graham has historically had the title clinched by Friday night, something they could do once again.
The Falcons return four state champs (Mitch Moore, J.D. Stickley, Rocky Jordan and Ryan Thomas), one runner-up (Gage Braun), a third-place finisher (Tanner Jordan) and fourth-place finisher (Joey Sanchez) while adding freshman Alek Martin to the mix.
Girl power: The Miami Valley has two girls with legitimate chances to move on at 106.
Miami East freshman Olivia Shore enters the sectional tournament with a 26-8 record and a lot of experience.
Shore has wrestled internationally for the US Women’s Junior National team and was a Cadet freestyle national champion.
Beavercreek’s Kaileigh Nuessgen has already recorded one first.
Nuessgen became the first female wrestler to advance to the finals in the 52-year history of the Western Ohio League/Greater Western Ohio Conference when she finished second this year.
Nuessgen enters the sectional tournament with a 21-10 mark.
If either can advance to the state tournament, they will join Paige Nemec of Mantua Crestwood in an exclusive club.
Nemec went 1-2 at the 2010 state tournament at 103 after becoming the first female to qualify for the state tournament.
Going for four: Graham’s Mitch Moore and Legacy Christian Academy’s Tommy Hoskins enter the postseason aiming for their fourth state titles.
Hoskins won his first two at Dayton Christian before transferring to Legacy Christian and has been slowed by injuries this season.
The 126-pound Oklahoma signee enters the sectional tournament at 9-0.
Mechanicsburg’s Kaleb Romero became the 29th four-time state champ last year.
A title by Moore would be the ninth four-timer for Graham. St. Ed’s is second on the list with four.
Moving up: Due to enrollment numbers, some teams will find themselves in different divisions.
West Carrollton drops from Division I to D-II and Waynesville moves from D-II to D-III.
While the Pirates travel to Graham for the sectional tournament, Waynesville will be the lone Dayton team competing at Blanchester.
Several sites: Most of the Division I teams from the area will be at Centerville, where the Elks will once again host two sctional tournaments, but Lebanon will also host a sectional.
Graham will host a pair of sectionals in D-II with D-III schools heading to Covington and Lehman.
Wrestling started yesterday and resumed today at 10 a.m. with finals starting roughly 45 minutes following the final consolation match.