The Bexley High School wrestling program is undergoing a bit of a rebuild under first-year coach Edward Cruz.
Cruz, who served as girls volleyball coach in the fall, has 19 years of experience as a wrestling coach. He hopes to see the program grow from one that features just eight competitors to one deep in numbers.
"Building the overall program is a major goal," Cruz said. "We have a strong middle (school) program now, started by Chris Bragg last year and headed by Dan Kelley this year. We have 22 kids at the middle school at this point. In two years we will have Bexley where it needs to be to compete at a high level as a team."
The Lions return a Division II district qualifier in junior Sam Shorr at 120 pounds. Shorr went 19-12 at 106 pounds last season.
Also returning, and serving as co-captain with Shorr, is junior Daniel Lee.
"(They) have shown great leadership and are committed to get both themselves and this team where it needs to be," Cruz said. "I think that both of them have an excellent chance to make it to the state tournament."
Lee will remain at 195. He was 10-19 at that weight a year ago.
Also on the team are junior Craig Music (heavyweight) and freshmen Dylan Cramer (145/152), John Hartshorne (138/145), John O'Toole (120/126), Mason Ruff (138/145) and Jonah Stuber (132).
"We've incorporated a tremendous amount of new technique that they're picking up quickly," Cruz said. "What we have works very hard."
The Lions opened Dec. 8 by finishing 11th (12) of 12 teams in the Kilted Klassic at Sparta Highland. Medina won the event.
"The tournament was an awakening for our young wrestlers of what it will take to successfully compete," Cruz said.
Lost to graduation from last year's team were Derek Cain (152, 28-11), Canon Colvin (145, 10-13), Kris Johnson (heavyweight, 7-12), D.J. Jones (132, 31-8), Ahmed Khaloufi (220, 6-10), Cameron Stewart (170, 19-13) and Henry Warren (145, 4-11).
Cain, Jones and Shorr all went 1-2 and Khaloufi went 0-2 in last year's district tournament at Uhrichsville Claymont. Bexley scored seven points at district to finish 38th behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 44 teams scored.
The Lions finished seventh (87) in the 14-team sectional at Licking Heights behind champion Licking Valley (194.5).
Bexley also placed seventh (83) in the MSL-Ohio Division tournament behind champion and host Licking Valley (258), Whitehall (190.5), Newark Catholic (131.5), Granville (96.5), Columbus Academy (84) and Lakewood (83.5) and ahead of Heath (64).
'Good team chemistry' strength for swimmers
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams each lost one athlete from last year's squads to graduation, but the number of newcomers has made leadership a priority, according to senior Sierra Humphrey.
"There are a lot of first-year swimmers, so it's important that people who have swam before are being good role models for them," she said.
"A lot of people who have swam before have also stepped up and have shown the new swimmers different techniques. There's good team chemistry. We're getting along pretty well."
The boys lost Kris Baker and the girls lost Katlin Hiller to graduation. Junior Maya Saar, who advanced to the Division II district meet last season, now competes at Columbus School for Girls.
Last year, the boys team finished fifth (102) in the MSL meet at Academy behind champion Granville (302) and the girls placed fifth (95) behind champion Granville (410).
The boys were fourth (77) in the sectional meet at Academy behind champion Granville (252), while the girls were sixth (67) behind champion Granville (336).
In the district meet at Ohio State, the boys finished 28th (15) behind champion Granville (325.5) and the girls tied Buckeye Valley for 17th (22) behind champion Granville (475).
Senior Ian Davis returns after scoring at district in the 200-yard individual medley (16th, 2 minutes, 24.68 seconds). He also teamed with Baker, senior Sebastian Parra-Maya and sophomore Ben Hoffman in the 200 medley relay (14th, 1:52.98).
Humphrey scored at district last year in the 100 breaststroke (12th, 1:15.14). Also scoring at district was the 200 medley relay (12th, 2:06.55) of junior Megan Niemeyer, sophomore Abbey Early, Humphrey and Saar.
Junior Marek Kuspan also returns for the boys, and juniors Carly Berndt, Ashley Marra and Jocie Steinke are back for the girls.
In the season-opening Columbus Academy Relays on Dec. 1, the boys finished second (70) behind Westerville South (122) and the girls finished fifth (46) behind champion Delaware (114).
On Dec. 5 at the Lancaster YMCA, the boys scored 155 points to defeat Pickerington Central (144) and Bloom-Carroll (81), while the girls finished second (149) behind Central (163) and ahead of Bloom-Carroll (52).
On Dec. 8 at the Columbus Aquatics Center, the boys (108) finished behind Olentangy Orange (122) and ahead of Centennial (74), while the girls (74) finished behind Orange (128) and Centennial (115).