COLUMBUS — Alex Mossing was barely fit enough to get out of bed Saturday, let alone wrestle for a state title.
Minutes after his 152-pound match in the Division II finals, the Central Catholic senior continued to mount a losing battle for air and could not stop coughing.
"I'm struggling right now," he said, hands on his knees in a tunnel inside the Schottenstein Center.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see photos from the state meet.
Yet in what the reigning state champion called the hardest match of his life, Mossing refused to be cast aside. Not by a flu bug that kept him from practice this week and had him vomiting into a trash can just after an earlier tournament match. And not by a late deficit to Vermilion senior Mike Repko.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Mossing (36-3) scored a two-point reversal with 53 seconds left, then rode out a 3-2 victory to dash into school history. He became Central’s first two-time champion and one of the Fighting Irish’s school-record two state winners, along with junior Nate Hagan (42-10) at 126 pounds.
"This definitely was not easy," said Mossing, who also underwent a midseason surgery to remove an infection from his shin. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and definitely harder than last year. ... It's just great to go out senior year with a win. I’ve got all my friends up here, my family, my coaches who put in all the hard work. I'm glad I could make it pay off for everyone."
Mossing’s win highlighted a strong tournament for Central, which sent three wrestlers to the finals and finished third in the state with 95 points. St. Paris Graham piled up 185.5 points to run away with its 14th straight title.
Hagan captured the title with a 3-1 overtime win over St. Paris Graham’s Brent Moore, and while Mossing’s cousin, junior Josh Mossing, was pinned in 3:27 by Graham’s Kyle Lawson at 138, his run to Saturday night came a year after he failed to qualify for the state tournament.
Hagan too earned a heavy dose of redemption. A year after a skin rash kept him from claiming his earned spot at state, he methodically advanced through the tournament. He won his last three matches by a score of 3-1, with the final featuring an exchange of escapes before a final winning takedown.
"I knew I just needed one good shot," Hagan said. "I took it and I finished it."
He declared himself a "Cinderella story."
"It's just a great feeling," Hagan said. "There’s nothing better than being on top, being one of the best kids from one of the best teams. I've been waiting for this day since last year. I wanted to be on that stage, but I didn’t even get to wrestle. It made me drive myself 10 times harder. It's just real great. I can't believe I did it."
Central’s Josh Venia took third place at 106 while J’Quan Fisher finished sixth at 285.
Graham’s Micah Jordan — an Ohio State recruit billed as one of the top wrestling prospects in the country — became the state’s 26th four-time state champion. He pinned Beau Minnick of Clyde in 1:44 at 145.