It would have been hard to blame Sam Shorr if he had decided to hang up his singlet and step away from the Bexley High School wrestling team a year ago.
Shorr missed a significant portion of his junior season because of a neck injury, and he was part of a program that won just two dual matches and finished the year with only seven wrestlers.
"It was just tough with the injury and the numbers. What am I working for right now? Why do I keep going?" said Shorr, who finished 13-10 at 120 pounds last season after reaching his second consecutive district tournament. "I believe I have a strong sense of perseverance. I just knew that if you keep working hard now, better things will come."
That's exactly what has happened for Shorr, who now competes at 132, and the Lions this season. In the second year of coach Ed Cruz's rebuilding project, Bexley is 5-3 in duals and features a complete roster of 14 wrestlers.
"Last year we were under a new coach, there were different things that were being taught, we had small numbers and it was just an awkward phase for us," said Daniel Lee, a senior captain along with Shorr and also a four-year wrestler. "Things were changing, things were different.
"I'm grateful for (the adjustment with Cruz)."
Lee was 15-6 at 220 a year ago and placed fifth at sectional. He is 15-5 this season, including a pair of wins by pin when the Lions faced Hilliard Darby B and Whetstone on Jan. 8 at home. Bexley lost to Darby 43-25 and beat Whetstone 51-29.
In the Licking Heights Invitational on Jan. 10 and 11, the Lions placed 13th (45.5 points) of 16 teams behind champion Westerville North (304.5).
While the Lions' program, which has a promising group of freshmen, still is progressing, Shorr and Lee are enjoying themselves more this season.
"We're having fun now. It's our success, but also we just have a bigger team this year. We have more guys that we can hang out with and enjoy each other's company," said Lee, who has progressively dropped weight this season and plans to move down to 195. "You spend 14 hours with somebody in a gymnasium, you get close."
Shorr is 18-8 this season, including a pair of wins, one by pin, on Jan. 8. He moved up to 138 at Licking Heights and went 3-3 to place sixth.
"Right now we are seniors and honestly I just feel like I have nothing to lose, so I just want to go out there and have fun and wrestle," Shorr said. "It is kind of surreal looking back even last year when we had seven guys on the team.
"It is nice to know that we were there from the bottom -- we're going to be rebuilding for years to come -- but right now we are in a pretty good spot."
Shorr, who describes himself as more of a technical wrestler and Lee, who relies on his strength, are helping to build a solid foundation for the future.
"They work really hard. When the freshmen come in and they see their work ethic, they automatically know, 'I have to do that, too,' " Cruz said. "They lead by example. As long as they are working hard and the other kids see that, that is what their role is as captains."
The perception of Bexley wrestling also is beginning to change, according to Shorr.
"Being a small team (opponents) are like, 'Oh, Bexley, that is just another win on our schedule.' That is not the case anymore," Shorr said. "It is a great feeling knowing that we have been on losing teams and now that we are seniors we finally have a chance to be on a winning team."
"It is a small sense of accomplishment on a long road," he said.
Boys basketball team loses 1st league game
The boys basketball team suffered its first MSL-Ohio Division loss, falling 67-65 against visiting Grandview on Jan. 11.
Senior forward Sam Nolan led Bexley with 22 points, matching his per game average. Junior guard Drew Esposito added 16 points for the Lions, who fell to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.
Bexley led 34-27 at halftime and 49-43 after three quarters before getting outscored 24-16 in the final period.
On Jan. 9, Bexley picked up a 59-52 league win over Worthington Christian. Nolan scored a game-high 27 points and Esposito added 14.
The Lions were third in the MSL-Ohio entering their game against league-leading Whitehall on Jan. 13 at home. The Rams were 6-0 in league play, followed by Grandview at 4-1. The game was a makeup from Jan. 7.
Bexley, which also faced Hartley on Jan. 15 at home, plays in the Jaguar Invitational on Friday, Jan. 17, and Saturday, Jan. 18, at Wellington. The Lions open against Shekinah Christian and face Horizon Science or Wellington the following day.
The Lions return to league play Tuesday, Jan. 21, at West Jefferson.
Girls basketball team halts four-game skid
The girls basketball team ended its four-game losing streak with a 54-38 MSL-Ohio win over visiting London on Jan. 11.
Junior center Elise Torrence had 14 points and six rebounds, while junior guard Sophie Schottenstein made four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points.
Freshman forward/center Brie Toney added 11 points for the Lions, who led 25-15 at halftime.
Bexley, which dropped a league game to visiting Worthington Christian 66-48 the night before, was 3-7 overall and 3-2 in the MSL-Ohio before playing West Jefferson on Jan. 14 in their fourth consecutive home game.
The Lions were third in the league entering the week, behind Worthington Christian (7-1) and West Jefferson (5-1).
"Within the league we are playing well," coach John Callahan said. "We have been playing pretty well defensively. We just run into trouble scoring."
Bexley travels to DeSales on Thursday, Jan. 16, before back-to-back games with Columbus Academy on Saturday, Jan. 18, and Tuesday, Jan. 21. The second game against Academy, which is at home, is a makeup from Dec. 6.
Bexley's game Jan. 7 at Buckeye Valley was postponed because of bad weather and re-scheduled for Feb. 5.
"They continue to work hard," Callahan said. "They are starting to buy in to some of the things we are telling them, so that is a positive."