Shakur Laney made a name for himself last season as a freshman on the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team, posting a 28-10 record and being a Division I district qualifier at 106 pounds.
Even though his talent no longer can be hidden from opponents, he is continuing to build on his resume.
The sophomore was 12-3 in the same weight class after winning the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament on Jan. 5 at Dublin Scioto and splitting a pair of OCC-Ohio Division matches Jan. 10 in the Cruisers' losses to Pickerington North (65-9) and Gahanna (53-21).
The Cruisers scored 85 points in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament to tie Van Wert for eighth behind champion Lewistown Indian Lake (228).
"Shakur Laney honestly gets better with every practice and match," coach Mark Niemann said. "He, like a good number of our wrestlers, watches his matches on our YouTube channel and tries to better himself in a proactive manner.
"It was a 16-team tournament, so there was a nice level of competition. Shakur garnered three first-period pins and a second-period pin in the finals. This was a delight after being snowed out of the second day of competition at (the) Marion Harding (Classic) over Christmas break. I liked his chances of winning that tournament, too."
The experience Laney gained last season is helping him this winter.
"I'm more focused and I want to get to state, but I'm taking it one step at a time and trying to improve each week," said Laney, who injured his left knee in practice and missed the Cruisers' first two events, Mount Vernon's Wazie Classic on Dec. 1 and a dual match against Hilliard Darby on Dec. 6. "Last year, I took a lot of time feeling out my opponent, but now I'm just going after them.
"I think I'm more aggressive, smarter and have better techniques. My losses were in my first week back, but now I'm rolling and I want to keep it going."
Also in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament, sophomore Malcolm Solack (195) placed third and is 10-3, junior Zander Wright (138) placed fifth and is 11-5 and sophomore Kyle Stover (145) finished sixth and is 8-9.
"Kyle has been developing at a faster pace than some of the other kids concerning the techniques we are showing," Niemann said. "His attitude and physical nature on the mat are also top-notch. His aggressiveness is his best and, at times, his worst attribute. But he is truly a gem."
Niemann likes the progress he has seen from his team.
"We competed in 13 of 14 weight classes (in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament) and missed competing in the 14th by about a half a pound. If we can put 14 on the mat for a tournament, it will be the first time in a long time, and I've been with the program since around 2005.
"In some areas, our team has made great strides. One area in particular is most freshmen have stepped in and competed well, and just about all of them have abandoned certain techniques or habits developed at the junior high level. They, like the rest of the team, have accepted our challenge of committing to be better."
Niemann marvels in the change in one of his wrestlers in particular.
"Senior Terry Reeves is becoming an example of what it means to be 'A CRUISER,' which stands for attitude, character, responsibility, unity, integrity, standards, enthusiasm and respect," Niemann said. "If you would have told me last year that Terry would be returning to Groveport Madison High School, I would have called you crazy. Had you told me not only would he be returning but he'd be on your wrestling team, I would have had you admitted. Terry has done a 180 in terms of his attitude and maturity."
Thomas stepping up for boys basketball team
The boys basketball team's quest for a third consecutive victory and second OCC-Ohio win in a row fell short Jan. 8 when it lost to Pickerington Central 60-57.
The Cruisers had a chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds but missed two 3-point attempts.
"We had tied it with around a minute left," coach Ryan Grashel said. "We battled all game. We rebounded well and gave ourselves a chance to win."
Groveport was 4-8 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Ohio before playing a makeup game with Newark on Jan. 14. The game originally was scheduled for Dec. 21 but was postponed because of bad weather.
"We're getting there and I'm happy with our effort and being competitive," Grashel said. "One of the keys for us lately has been the play of (center) Carmearl Thomas. He's giving us a presence in the paint with his scoring and rebounding."
Against Central, guard A.J. Crowder had 14 points, guard Ty Ferguson scored 13 and guard Tyrone Cherry scored 10. In an 85-35 loss to Reynoldsburg on Jan. 11, Ferguson had a team-high 12 points.
Girls team struggling to win, be competitive
Victories have been difficult to come by for the girls basketball team, which was 2-10 overall and had lost four games in a row before playing Jonathan Alder on Jan. 15.
The Cruisers are 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio, with their last three league losses coming against Pickerington North (84-25 on Jan. 4), Pickerington Central (71-20 on Jan. 8) and Reynoldsburg (96-15 on Jan. 11).