COLUMBUS — Stephen Ferguson’s Division III state tournament run may have ended Thursday, but the Elyria Catholic senior wouldn’t trade it for the world.
A state alternate as a freshman and sophomore and district qualifier last season, he was able to rid himself of the just-missed tag in his swan song with the Panthers.
He did it the hard way at the Garfield Heights district last week where he lost his first-round match and then won three matches just to get into the blood round, where he beat Cardinal’s Jerry Rose 9-3 to advance.
“It means a lot for me to be here,” Ferguson said. “For me to be able to break my streak of being the alternate and not making it my junior year and to be on the level that Stan (Bleich) and Scotty (Burnett) and my father was (meant everything). Knowing it’s my senior year and the last year I’ll probably wrestle in high school and me being up with my peers and my father, it feels great to share the experience he had years ago.”
In order to join his father, Steve, who finished runner-up for Southview in 1997, the 152-pounder had to dig deep.
“The only word I can describe is relief,” EC coach Scott Marion said. “When he won the blood round last week, it was one of my personal favorite moments as a coach because he’s been that close.
“This is the goal. It’s to make it here. Any tournament you get in you want to win, but just to be able to compete out here, the only way to describe it is he’s playing with house money.”
Unfortunately for Ferguson, Nelsonville-York state placer Noah Inboden pinned him in the second period in Thursday’s opener. With only a few hours to get his mind right, Ferguson then fell 4-1 to Milton-Union’s Dylan Schenck and exited the tournament on the first day.
The season, and maybe even his career, may have ended on the green and red mats of Value City Arena, but the memories he made will last a lifetime.
Ferguson didn’t reach the finals like his father, but he was one of only 16 individuals in his weight class.
Add the 25 wins and runner-up finish at the Independence sectional and Ferguson accomplished quite a bit in his final season at Elyria Catholic.
Marion will likely go on to mentor quite a few state qualifiers and state placers and could go on to guide some state champions. What no one can take away from the second-year coach is the place Ferguson will hold in his heart.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Marion said. “Good luck trying to find somebody that says anything bad about this young man. He’s a hard worker.
“What I said to him the other day — which is absolutely true — however long I’m the head coach at Elyria Catholic or the head coach in Ohio, he’s my first state qualifier. That right there means everything to me. To be here with him is an honor.”
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