Despite finishing last in the 14-team Cruiser Invitational on Jan. 26, Groveport Madison High School wrestling coach Mark Niemann was pleased with his team's performance.
Whitehall won the event with 225 points, with Hilliard Bradley (148.5) and Licking Valley (135.5) rounding out the top three. The Cruisers, who had lost some wrestlers to academic ineligibility the day before, scored 29 points.
"I truly am tickled pink with the job that a handful of our guys did," Niemann said.
"Three of them placed and a few others wrestled very well, too. If you can place in our tournament, you're in the hunt for the (Division I) district tournament."
Sophomore Shakur Laney placed third at 106 pounds and improved to 22-4 on the season.
"Shakur wrestled very well as expected," Niemann said. "He lost to (Dresden Tri-Valley's Luke Nace) who was a state alternate last season and then beat Whitehall's Noah Jay (6-4) for third place. (Jay) was a state qualifier last year and was 20-1 before our tournament."
Sophomore Malcolm Solack also finished third, beating Licking Valley's Abe Smith 9-7 in the third-place match at 195 pounds to improve to 9-3. He defeated Bradley's Sam Riggs -- a district qualifier last season -- 7-3 in his opening match.
"For Malcolm to open like that was fantastic," Niemann said. "He was amazing in a deep tournament. I was really happy for him."
Senior Sam Lovings placed sixth at 145.
"Sam started the year at 160 and told me he wanted to work his way down to 138, so he's been cutting to make it down there and he should be there by (Thursday, Jan. 31, for an OCC-Ohio Division match against Reynoldsburg)," Niemann said. "He wrestled very well and I'm happy for him and proud of him. All three of those guys were great."
Niemann also was pleased with the effort put forth by Kyle Stover at 152 and the attitude of some of the wrestlers who weren't eligible to compete.
"Kyle Stover is really doing a great job and he lost 7-6 in his last match and was so close to making it to the fifth-place match," Niemann said. "It was also nice that some of the kids who became ineligible were here to work and watch the tournament. That proves they still want to be with us. Now they need to go make positive things happen in the classroom to return next season."
Groveport lost to top-seeded host Hilliard Davidson 63-9 in the first round of the inaugural Division I state team tournament Jan. 23. The Cruisers were seeded eighth in the eight-team Region 6-A bracket of the dual-format tournament.
Laney defeated Trent Gill 5-1 at 106 for the Cruisers' lone win.
Boys basketball team looking to improve
The boys basketball team will play three OCC-Ohio games in the next five days.
Groveport travels to Newark on Friday, Feb. 1, and Pickerington North on Tuesday, Feb. 5, and plays host to Grove City on Saturday, Feb. 2, in a makeup game from Jan. 25.
The Cruisers lost to Newark 58-40 on Jan. 14. They trailed 28-26 at halftime and the score remained close until the final minutes of the third quarter.
Guards Tyrone Cherry and Mark Johnson-Reed both had 10 points to lead Groveport, and guard Jordan Dartis and post player Teddy Metzen scored 19 and 16, respectively, to lead the way for the Wildcats.
"I was very pleased with the way we handled (Newark's) defensive pressure for about three quarters," coach Ryan Grashel said. "Maybe we can carry that over and get them the next time. But what's more important to us is to just keep getting better every day, no matter who the opponent is."
Groveport beat North 62-47 on Jan. 4 behind 16 points from point guard Ty Ferguson, 13 from guard C.J. Crowder and 10 apiece from Cherry and post player Carmearl Thomas. The Cruisers outscored the Panthers 35-19 in the second half.
The win ended Groveport's 18-game losing streak against OCC-Ohio opponents. Its previous league victory was Feb. 11, 2011, when it beat Lancaster 51-44.
"That win gave us the confidence we can play with anybody when we put the pieces together and play smart and fundamentally sound," Grashel said. "Obviously, what we need to do is set the tempo and physicality of the game early."
Groveport was 5-10 overall and 1-7 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Jan. 29.
The Cruisers added a non-league game against Whetstone to their schedule, defeating the Braves 64-47 on Jan. 22 behind 19 points from Cherry, 18 from forward Markel Davis and 12 from Ferguson.
Their game against St. Charles on Jan. 26 was postponed because the Cardinals had to make up a CCL game that day. The contest had not been rescheduled as of Jan. 27.
Girls basketball team ends losing streak
The girls basketball team ended its seven-game losing streak with a 50-33 win over Bloom-Carroll on Jan. 23.
Guard Brittany Morgan led the Cruisers with 17 points and guard Kisha Lane and forward Hayley McKinley added eight and seven points, respectively.
Groveport was 3-12 overall and 0-8 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Jan. 29.
The Cruisers' league game against Grove City on Jan. 25 was postponed because of bad weather. A makeup date was not immediately announced.