COLUMBUS - There haven't been too many bad weekends for David-Brian Whisler and Glenn Zaller, two wrestlers from different schools but possessing a similar goal.
Whisler, a junior from Howland, entered the State Wrestling Tournament with a 43-4 record - the most wins in a single season in the Tigers' history. He was the top-ranked wrestler in Division II at 152 pounds, according to multiple prognosticators. Zaller, a senior at Grand Valley, was 39-4 and held the all-time mark for career victories with more than 150 total. He was ranked as high as fifth in Division III at 195 pounds.
They're both two-time Eastern Ohio Wrestling League champions, sectional champions and have dominated most of the competition they've faced this year.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Howland’s David-Brian Whisler controls the back of Alliance’s Kristian Jackson during their 152-pound consolation bracket bout. Whisler and Grand Valley’s Glenn Zaller rebounded after being derailed from their goals of state titles and ended up placing in Columbus.
Their common goal was a state title, and their coaches said it was a realistic expectation. When that objective was taken from them on Friday, with Whisler losing in the quarterfinals and Zaller in the semifinals, two people not used to losing had a hard time dealing with defeat.
"I haven't really had a bad tournament all year, and it's kind of a bad weekend to have it," said Whisler, who lost again in the consolation quarterfinals but regained his composure and placed seventh. "It's hard to go perfect all through the year. Setbacks happen to everybody, and they can make you stronger. That's how I'm going to look at it. I'm not happy with what happened this weekend, but I'll use it to help motivate me."
Whisler made it clear prior to the state tournament that his goal was to win it all, but he said a rough weekend and an ongoing battle with controlling his weight kept him from reaching that ambition. Whisler said he made a decision to wrestle at 152 pounds early in the year, but he hit a growth spurt over the last few months, so maintaining that weight became increasingly difficult. The struggle reached its climax this weekend, when wrestlers must make weight three different times. He didn't make weight on Friday night, which meant he had to come back early Saturday morning to work out and try again.
He eventually made weight, but the constant workouts in between matches affected his stamina and overall wrestling throughout the weekend. That, coupled with a last-second defeat in the quarterfinals in which Whisler lost the lead with 3 seconds remaining, led to a performance that didn't satisfy Whisler, who finished fourth in the state at 152 pounds last season.
"I'm in really good shape," Whisler said. "I can wrestle forever, but it's hard when you're feeling like this to put in a hard 2-and-a-half minutes, let alone a whole 6 minutes. It's easy to make excuses, so I'm not going to blame anything.
"Once you get down (to state), every match is tough, regardless of who it is. It was rough coming back from a loss, especially a real close one. I came here to win it, and I took seventh. It definitely wasn't the way I wanted to end the year."
The same could be said for Zaller. The senior wasn't available to comment after his match because he was being treated for an injury he suffered during his final match, an overtime loss that resulted in him taking sixth place.
Mustangs coach Steve Paratto said Zaller came in with hopes of taking first place, but when he was pinned in the semifinals (a match he was winning 2-1), the frustration took a toll.
"He had his eyes set on the main goal (of winning it all)," Paratto said. "When he lost in the semis, I don't think he recovered from that loss as well as we (the coaching staff) were hoping. We thought we were ready for it if it happened, but he didn't wrestle well (after the loss)."
Zaller still ends his career at Grand Valley as one of the school's greatest wrestlers. He was a three-time state qualifier and dominated the EOWL Tournament the past two seasons. His sixth-place finish matches that of his brother, Matt, a 2012 graduate.
"He has over 150 wins and over 100 pins," Paratto said of Glenn's career. "(Wrestling) is a step-by-step process, and every year you need to get to the next step on the ladder. Glenn has done that, and he's exceeded every expectation I've ever had for him."