The Jackson High School wrestling team knew it was in for a big challenge at the Mentor Division I district tournament. After a weekend on the mats in arguably the best district in the state, the Polar Bears emerged with plenty of battle scars and a mixed bag of results.

The Jackson High School wrestling team knew it was in for a big challenge at the Mentor Division I district tournament.

After a weekend on the mats in arguably the best district in the state, the Polar Bears emerged with plenty of battle scars and a mixed bag of results.

Juniors Justyn Bostic (132 pounds) and Garrett Polling (152 pounds) placed fifth to pace Jackson to 21st place out of 44 teams. Federal League rivals Perry and Lake finished first and second, respectively.

“I didn’t think we had a terrible weekend,” Jackson coach Rocky Laughlin said. “We would have liked to get a couple of guys through and that was our goal, but both Justyn and Garrett will go down as alternates.”

With seven wrestlers reaching the district level, the Polar Bears more than doubled their contingent from the district tournament last season. While Bostic and Polling worked their way through the consolation brackets for their respective weight classes and won their fifth-place matches, Jackson’s remaining five competitors were eliminated in the early stages of the consolation rounds.

Three of the seven wrestlers who qualified for districts wrestled primarily on the junior varsity team last season. The trio of Polling, Chris Head and Will Kanters waited for an opportunity to move up to the varsity level and capitalized on that chance by reaching districts in their first full season of varsity competition.

While the result wasn’t what Laughlin and his team were hoping for, improved postseason performance for a squad that lost eight seniors from last season is a positive indicator for Jackson. Bostic’s loss in the consolation semifinals to Jason Spencer of Perry, to whom he also lost in the sectional tournament and twice during the regular season, came by a 2-1 margin.

“They’ve wrestled a couple of times and each time, it’s been really close and decided by a point or two,” Laughlin said.

Even though most of their wrestlers at the district tournament were juniors, Laughlin noticed a few first-time jitters in the early going for those who had never made it that far in the postseason. However, the veteran coach attributed the team’s struggles more to the quality of the field at Mentor than to any big-match nerves. In addition to Perry and Lake, traditional powers such as Walsh Jesuit and Aurora made the tournament a true meat grinder for any wrestler looking to keep his dreams of a trip to Columbus this weekend alive.

As the noise died down and the focus shifted to assessing the season and what the team accomplished, Laughlin pointed to the foundation in place for next season and beyond. Josh Bostic was the team’s only senior, and next year’s squad will have six returning district qualifiers to lead the way.

“It’s one of things we’ve tried to talk about a little as far as evaluating the weekend,” Laughlin said. “Knowing Justyn was our only returning qualifier — Josh Bostic made it last year but as an alternate - and most of our guys haven’t had that experience before, we’re really excited about the number of kids we had here this year.”

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB