Regardless of results, this season was going to be a challenge for first-year Bexley High School wrestling coach Edward Cruz.
Cruz took over a program with just eight competitors, and only two had previous varsity experience.
As it turned out, those two competed in a total of six matches before last weekend's Grandview Heights Invitational.
Junior Sam Shorr (120 pounds) suffered a contusion on a vertebra during practice before the season started, and junior Daniel Lee (195) was 4-2 before suffering a shoulder injury.
But progress still has been made, according to Cruz, due in part to the leadership provided by Lee and Shorr.
"Having experience in the (practice) room is always helpful," Cruz said. "In our case, it is leadership by example that is key, especially because of injury to the experienced wrestlers, and the significant addition of new technique.
"Our experienced wrestlers haven't had as much opportunity to help build the technique of the younger guys as there would've been without the injuries."
With that being the case, Shorr said he likes where the team is heading.
"We're in a great situation right now," he said. "(Cruz's) main goal from what he said is to sort of build the Bexley program and start with the little guys and have them work their way up through middle school and into high school.
"We've really worked on technique and fundamentals of wrestling (at the high school level), and it's worked really well."
Shorr returned to practice Jan. 7 and competed Jan. 18 and 19 in the Grandview Heights Invitational. He placed third at 120, and John O'Toole (120) and Craig Music (heavyweight) both were sixth as the Lions finished 12th (31) and Buckeye Valley (271.5) won the 12-team event.
"We're easing into it a little bit," Shorr said of his return.
Cruz said Shorr's experience as a Division II district qualifier a year ago carries weight in the practice room.
"(It) brings with it an automatic respect," Cruz said. "Even though injured, Sam has built on that respect and has been an example for the younger kids to follow.
"He is always at practice and matches to help any way he can. It has been great to have him back on the mat."
Shorr said he enjoys setting a positive example for his teammates.
"It's nice to show the younger guys into the right direction and let them know what they're doing right and wrong, and what they need to work on," he said. "It's nice to be someone they sort of look up to and maybe want to strive to be like at some point."
Boys basketball team to honor state champs
The 1983 boys basketball team, which won the Class AA state championship, will be honored at halftime of the Lions' home game against Lakewood on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Two members of that team, David Elliott and Chris Kondracke, are fathers of current players, forward Drew Elliott and guard Tyler Kondracke.
"That's really neat stuff," coach Dave Gustin said. "Not too often does it happen that in the next generation two sons of players from a team are playing at the same school where they won a state title.
"I know I've heard the stories the (state champions) tell about the run they made. It's often talked about. Having kids whose dads played on that team brings even more drama to it."
Elliott was averaging 5.8 points through 12 games. He scored a career-high 22 points in a 55-48 win at Licking Valley on Dec. 8.
Kondracke, who was averaging 4.0 points, scored 11 in a 74-35 home win over Hamilton Township on Dec. 27.
After losing 54-38 at Columbus Academy on Jan. 12, Bexley didn't play again until Jan. 18, when the Lions defeated visiting Licking Valley 53-30 in another MSL-Ohio Division game.
The break between games provided good practice time, according to Gustin.
"They came back with a pretty good work ethic," he said.
"(Losing to Academy) stung for a while, but when you're in this as long as I've been, you're going to have big games and you're going to win some and lose some, but you have to move ahead.
"You have to look forward. I used to dwell on it too much, and I know young kids are resilient, and that's a good thing. I think we're fine and we just need to do what we've done to get to this point. We just need to keep defending well."
Lake, Stewart still leading girls team
Lydia Lake and Bri Stewart continue their bid to finish the girls basketball season with scoring averages in double figures.
Lake, a guard, was averaging 12.3 points through 16 games and Stewart, who plays guard and forward, was averaging 11.5.
Stewart scored 19 points on Jan. 11 in a 56-44 loss at Licking Valley, and Lake had 16 on Jan. 15 in a 57-34 home loss against Heath.
On Jan. 19, center Elise Torrence scored a career-high 21 points and Stewart added 13 as the Lions beat host Lakewood 59-23.