By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
KETTERING — When you have the high expectations Hunter Bryant has, you expect to win every time you step on the mat — regardless of the competition.
And Bryant has done that with few exceptions this year, taking a 40-2 record into Saturday’s D-I district championship match against Dillon Leneave, 35-4, of Fairfield.
And while Bryant’s 5-0 loss at Trent Arena didn’t sit well with Bryant, he still could see the big picture.
“Just being in the top 16 (going to state),” is awesome,” Bryant said. “I didn’t get to wrestle down here last year. I was a district alternate. Now I am going to state.”
After a scoreless first period in the title match, Leneave had a takedown from the neutral position in the second period and added an escape and takedown in the third period.
“He did a good job of riding me,” Bryant said. “I was close on a couple shots, but I just wasn’t able to finish.”
Piqua coach Scott Kaye didn’t see it as a completely bad thing.
“That kid was a strong kid,” Kaye said. “Hunter got in on him a couple times and just wasn’t quite able to finish. But, the kid wrestled a heck of a match.
“I think Hunter needed this. I think this will help him get refocused on what he needs to do going into state.”
Bryant secured the state berth by advancing to the finals.
After decisioning Andrew Kress of Lakota West 13-6 and Stuart Morton of Moeller 10-4 on Friday to reach the semifinals, Bryant needed one more win to secure a state berth.
He got that in a hard-fought 3-1 win over Dakota Stephens of St. Xavier.
“Hunter (Bryant) probably could have gotten a few more points,” Kaye said. “The kid was a strong kid and the main thing is, he got the victory.”
With a berth in the finals on the line, that match was tied 1-1 in the third period.
“I got a takedown with 30 seconds to go (making it 3-1),” Bryant said. “Coach Kaye told me to cut him (let him up), but on the re-start he dove at my legs and I was able to ride him for 30 seconds. He was a strong kid, but I was able to get the win.”
Bryant admitted the loss is only going to make him stronger.
“It’s not like I wanted it to happen,” he said. “But, I hadn’t lost in more than a month. I’ve got some things to work on for state. Winning the first match is first — I’ve still got some goals to accomplish.”
Kaye knows what he will see next week.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment to make it to state as a sophomore,” Kaye said. “He is exactly what you want in an athlete. He is a great representative of both the school and the community.”
Who will have the same passion and high expectations the next time he takes the mat.