The prep wrestling season has reached its final weekend.
And there are just 10 area grapplers, all of whom are in Division III, left standing after two rounds of post-season action.
The final stop on the journey is the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, but the final goal is to be wrestling Saturday, which would mean an all-Ohio finish to the season.
The quest for the state's top prize resumes Thursday afternoon at 3 with championship first-round matches. The wrestlers who win that match won't wrestle again until Friday morning at 10 in the quarterfinals. However, those who lose a first-round match will have a consolation match awaiting them later in the evening on Thursday.
Also during Friday's first session, additional consolation rounds will be contested. The state semifinals will get under way at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday's action begins at 10 a.m. with consolation semifinals. Those will lead directly into the placement matches for third through eighth places.
The state title matches - in all three divisions - will be wrestled concurrently, starting at 5:45 p.m.
To earn all-Ohio, a wrestler must win two matches, regardless of where. Two consecutive wins means nothing worse than a sixth place finish awaits.
Here's a capsule look at the 10 area entrants and their quest for the title:
MARTINS FERRY - Coach Scott Roth's Purple Riders had a strong district showing, finishing fourth overall in the team rankings.
The Riders qualified three to the state meet, including freshman Theo Zoumpoulidis, senior Damon Outward and senior Zac Coole.
Roth, a state champion himself in 2000, has spent many hours studying the brackets for this weekend's tournament and he's quite pleased with the draw of Outward at 126 pounds.
"Damon's draw looks really good," Roth said. "Now, he just has to go wrestle. I can realistically see him in the semis and possibly the finals if he continues to wrestle like he has been."
Outward, a three-time state qualifier, is still seeking the elusive medal and will enter this weekend as a district champion with a 45-5 record.
Working in the bottom half of the bracket, Outward will tangle with Versailles' senior Andrew Slonkosky in the first round. Slonkosky was fourth at the Kettering Fairmont district and is now 34-10 on the season.
Outward's weight class has just two returning state placers, including Jamestown Greenview's Andrew Hoskins, who was fifth last season as a frosh at 120 pounds. He's in Outward's half of the bracket.
Coole is making his state tournament debut at 220 pounds and heads to Franklin County with a 42-8 mark.
The first opponent in Coole's path is Fremont St. Joe's junior Corey Durbin. The junior was third at the Bowling Green district and is 39-3 on the season.
"Zac is wrestling really well," Roth said. "I don't know if it has all just come together for him and Damon or if it has to do with it being their last shot, but both are at the top of their games."
Coole's weight class has two former placewinners, both of whom are in his half of the bracket.
"Zac had a couple of outstanding wins at the district where he really dug down deep," Roth said.
Zoumpoulidis, meanwhile, snuck up on some people at 106 pounds throughout the course of the postseason and wrestled his way to the district final before falling.
"Theo has been wrestling well, going all the way back to the sectional where he had some big wins, which put him in a great spot at the district," Roth said.
Zoumpoulidis will make his state tourney debut against Haviland Wayne Trace freshman George Clemens, who was an upset victim at the district and finished third at Kettering.
Clemens is 45-1 on the season, while Zoumpoulidis is 26-12.
"Theo's first-round matchup isn't one that I would have hoped for, but like I've said, 'you've got to beat someone good to place.' He will have to beat two good people to place."
MONROE CENTRAL - The lone Seminole to earn his way to the capital city is sophomore Rodney Richter, who is embarking on his first state tourney trip, at 113 pounds.
Richter finished second in the district last weekend at Philo and is now 20-3 on the season.
He'll be one of the first matches on the floor Thursday. Richter will take on fellow sophomore Jarred Ganger of Troy Christian. Ganger is 32-5 this season and was the 106-pound state runnerup last season.
RIVER - The Pilots have had one of the area's more impressive seasons as a team under first-year head coach Eric Rosen.
The Pilots will have one grappler take part in this weekend's state tournament.
Senior J.D. Dotson earned his way to Columbus by virtue of a fourth-place finish in the district at 220 pounds. He advanced to the championship semifinals before falling. However, he won a wrestle back match to finalize his trip.
Dotson is now 34-7 and will face Galion sophomore Deaken McCoy, who was the champion at the Bowling Green district.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Red Devils are back in the state tournament after failing to qualify an individual in 2012.
The Red Devils will be taking two entrants to the tournament, both of whom were fourth-place finishers in the district.
Senior Justin Callarik qualifed to his first state tournament at 138 pounds. Currently 36-9 on the season, Callarik has a tough match ahead in Archbold junior Logan Day, who is 48-1. Day was the winner of the Bowling Green district and didn't place in last year's event.
Senior Corey Ernest, who came up one match short of qualifying last season, is in the 285-pound field this weekend. He advanced to the district semifinal last week before falling and then winning a wrestle back match. He was edged in the consolation final.
He'll meet Bowling Green district champion Ian Ramos, a senior at Collins Western Reserve. Ramos is 50-1 on the season and hasn't placed in the tournament, either.
SHADYSIDE - The Tigers have been making serious noise and taking no prisoners basically all season and now head coach Scott Kinemond is hoping to send his three senior standouts out in grand fashion.
"All of the guys are wrestling well right now," Kinemond said. "Obviously, this is going to be the toughest tournament of the season, but I think these kids' mindset is where it needs to be and I really think we'll get it done."
The Tigers' Big 3 of Ian Baker, Chase Kinemond and Alex Quinn have been staples in the middle of the Shadyside lineup all winter.
Each won the OVAC title, the sectional title and advanced to the district final. On top of that, all three have earned a state medal at one point in their career.
"All three have been there and placed, so none are just happy to be making the trip this weekend," Kinemond said. "They don't want to be just a state qualifier. They want to be a state placer. They're all hoping for the number one by their name when it's said and done."
Quinn is the Tigers' entrant at 152 pounds. He reached the state semifinals last season before falling. He won two wrestle back matches to finish third. He's not suffered a defeat since that semifinal. He's currently 41-0 on the season and will meet Genoa Area's Jake Fejes, who is 52-8 in the first round.
"I think Alex has learned from last year," Kinemond said. "I think the field is going to be tougher this year. Alex is aggressive and he won't change his style. I know he's worked hard wanting that state title and I believe he's capable of winning it."
Including Quinn, there are only three returning placers in the bracket. One, however, is Troy Christian's Jordan Marshall, who won the state title at 145 pounds last season.
Kinemond is making the trip back to Columbus as a competitor for the first time since his freshman season when he placed fifth in 125.
He didn't wrestle in the postseason due to injury as a sophomore and junior, but has come back impressively with a 38-2 record. He was the 160-pound champion at the Philo district and will meet Massillon Tuslaw's D.J. Blair, who is 43-9 and placed sixth at 152 last season.
Kinemond is one of seven former state placers in the bracket.
"I think Chase can compete well," his father and coach said. "I think since he's been out for two years, some people might have forgotten about him, so he might be able to sneak up on someone."
Beachwood junior Ryan Harris, who is 46-0, is the favorite for the state title and he's in Kinemond's half of the bracket, meaning they could see one another in the semifinal.
Baker is returning to the state tournament for the third straight season and placed fifth last season at 138 pounds. Now 41-3, Baker enters this weekend as a district runnerup and will square off with Genoa Area's Drew Keenan, who is 61-4 on the season. Keenan's win total is the most in the entire small-school field.
"Ian's got a tough road ahead," Kinemond said. "But, he's a battler. I know he'll go out there and compete well like he has all season."
Other OVAC grapplers in the Division III field include: Caldwell's Kameron Rayner (138), Kale Rayner (170) and Jared Leasure (182).
In Division II, nary a representative of Buckeye Local or Harrison Central qualified.
However, a total of 12 OVAC member grapplers did earn their way to Columbus.
They include: Indian Creek's Kyle Moffitt (126); Steubenville's Tariq Wilson (106), Anthony Craig (126), Anthony Parada (132), Mark Cole (170) and Greg Moray (220); Cambridge's Sawyer Leppla (152) and Dillon Sunnafrank (160) and Beaver Local's Josh Henderson (113), Ron Foster (132), Jason Keyes (120) and Daniel Hasson (138).
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org