Clay's Angelo Amenta, left, beat Mason Calvert of Sidney 15-0 to be one of three Eagles to advance into Friday's quarterfinal matches.
COLUMBUS -- A few seconds after he finalized a dominating win in his first bout of the state tournament, Clay's Angelo Amenta threw on his warm up gear and watched an unlikely event.
His teammate, Jacob Conine, was wrestling.
"He's always been as good as us and just couldn't prove it," Amenta said.
A serious and rare lower back injury almost destroyed Conine's wrestling career. Worse, it almost crippled him. That's what made the visual of him getting his hand raised Thursday so sweet.
Conine was one of four Clay grapplers who won opening round matches to advance to Friday morning's Division I quarterfinal round at Value City Arena. The 132-pound senior, who topped Ashville Teays Valley's Cole Nace 8-5, was joined in victory by returning state place winners Mike Screptock (126) and Amenta (138), and heavyweight Garrett Gray.
Two other Eagles -- Jared Davis (103) and Richie Screptock (113) -- will try to make something happen in the consolation bracket. Jarred Gray (220) is the lone wrestler eliminated for the Eagles, who totaled 14.5 points to tie Cincinnati Moeller for second place. Lakewood St. Edward, which is a lock to win, has 38 points.
Quitting the sport was a possibility, Conine admits, "but at the end of the day wrestling's what I have a passion for. It's what I love."
His injury came after he narrowly missed qualifying for state as a sophomore. Physical therapy didn't help, nor did sessions with a chiropractor. Just in case he miraculously got better, Conine did what he could to stay in shape. He found a doctor who prescribed rehabilitation involving heat, and Conine has felt wonderful ever since.
Competing in this grand environment is the capstone of his journey back.
Jacob Conine of Oregon Clay breaks free en route to defeating Cole Nace of Ashville Teays Valley.
"It feels good," said Conine, who ran his record to 43-5. "First time getting down to the big show, the lights, the big stage, was kind of nerve wracking. It feels good to get that one off my skin."
He'll face defending state champion Joey Ward of Moeller in the quarterfinals.
Amenta, who pulled off the rare feat in 2011 of winning five straight consolation bouts to finish third, crushed Sidney's Mason Calvert, 15-0.
He'll face two-time state placer Mike Labry of Twinsburg in the quarterfinals.
"The rest of the tournament is going to be a battle," Amenta said.
Perrysburg's three qualifiers won, with Ryan Roth (138), Luke Boff (182) and Micah Carter (195) posting regular decisions. Also advancing was St. John's Jesuit's Ted Schoen (195) who earned a technical fall to improve his record to 42-2. A district qualifier his first two years, senior Schoen didn't compete last year after growing tired of the sport. Now he's one win away from earning a placement.
Perrysburg's Micah Carter, right, grapples with Marysville's Tomas Taylor. The senior was one of three Yellow Jackets to advance in the championship bracket with a 5-3 win.
"I don't like to think about it just because I know the potential I could have had," he said. "I'm glad I'm out this year. Hopefully I can make something of it."
Winning in the consolation round after dropping his first bout was Maumee's Rocco Caywood (170).
Although Carter is making his first appearance at the tournament, he believes he has the ability to capture a title. Ranked third, the Yellow Jackets' senior improved to 35-2 with a 5-3 win over Marysville's Thomas Taylor.
"I want to keep fighting until somebody knocks me down," Carter said. "I'm almost positive that's the same attitude my teammates are going at it with."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.