Shakur Laney of the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team is hoping to stick to his game plan when he competes in the Division I state tournament.
The sophomore won the championship at 106 pounds in the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 and Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which runs Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State.
"I've just got to go in there with the momentum I have, stay focused and humble and try my best," Laney said. "If I wrestle the way I can, I'm hoping that will be good enough to make the podium."
Laney went 4-0 at district after finishing fourth in a sectional Feb. 16 at Pickerington North. Included in his march to the title was a 14-12 decision in sudden victory over Teays Valley's Luke Nace in a semifinal.
"Shakur was down five with 45 seconds to go and he took (Nace) down and kicked him out three times but was still down 12-10 with 8.8 seconds left when (Nace) got an injury timeout," coach Mark Niemann said. "He still needed a takedown and he went out and got it to send it into overtime. It was incredible. Then he got a takedown 15 seconds into sudden victory. That was thrilling."
Laney then defeated Olentangy Liberty's Jonathon Furnas 6-2 in the championship match, avenging a 5-3 loss to Furnas in the third-place match at sectional and improving to 30-6 on the season.
"I wanted to get to state and I thought I could, but winning the district is a great accomplishment," said Laney, who was a district qualifier last season. "It feels unbelievable. When I was down five, I just thought to myself, 'I have nothing to lose here,' and kept taking him down. In overtime, I just used the momentum I had and carried it into the final. Now I want to carry that into state."
Laney opened district with an 11-3 win Hilliard Bradley's C.J. Campbell and beat Worthington Kilbourne's Austin Oberly 11-4 in a quarterfinal.
"Shakur has wrestled better each and every day in practice and in every competition along the way since the Cruiser Invitational (on Jan. 26)," Niemann said. "He was awesome and is doing great things. I expect him to do very well at state."
Niemann correctly predicted after the sectional draw Jan. 27 that the top four finishers at 106 in the sectional at North would be the same top four at district.
Nace won the sectional title, beating North's Payton Gutierrez 5-3 in the final. At district, Gutierrez beat Nace 4-3 in the third-place match.
Also competing at district for Groveport was sophomore Malcolm Solack, who went 1-2 at 195. He lost his opening match 5-3 to Joshua Pyles of Franklin Heights and pinned New Albany's Matthew Jones in 2:58 before losing to Reynoldsburg's Jordan Reed 4-2 to finish 11-6.
The Cruisers scored 26 points at district to place 22nd, behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored.
Boys basketball team falls in tourney opener
The boys basketball team lost at 12th-seeded Westerville South 82-53 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23.
The Cruisers, who were seeded 31st of 42 teams, finished 6-17.
Groveport trailed 34-29 at halftime but couldn't keep pace with South in the second half.
Junior guard C.J. Crowder had 19 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Cruisers. Sophomore guard Tyrone Cherry had 10 points and freshman point guard Tyus Ferguson scored nine.
Forward Marcus Ball had 20 points to lead the Wildcats, who improved to 16-7 and advanced to play 20th-seeded Walnut Ridge in the second round Feb. 27.
Bowlers end season at district tourney
Senior Alizabeth Clements and sophomore Elizabeth Moore of the girls bowling team ended their seasons in the district tournament Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
Clements rolled a 454 series (157-126-171) to tie for 40th of 118 competitors and Moore rolled a 449 (181-142-126) to finish 48th. The top three individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Westerville Central's Savannah Slark (625) won the district title and North Union's Stormie Jamison (529) was the final state qualifier.
Clements and Moore qualified for district as individual qualifiers from the sectional Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl, as the top nine teams and top nine individuals not on a qualifying team advanced.
Clements and Moore rolled a 506 and 467, respectively, at sectional. Also competing were freshmen Anna Barndollar (348) and Callie Smith (304).
The girls team finished 9-8-1 overall, placed fourth in the 11-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division at 8-5-1 behind champion Briggs (14-0) and placed fourth in the OCC-Ohio at 1-2-1 behind champion Reynoldsburg (3-0-1).
Sophomore Brandon Klentz of the boys team also saw his season come to an end, as he rolled a 521 (192-174-155) at district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes to tie for 46th of 117 competitors. Newark's Austin Martin won the district title with a 728 and Granville's Jon Massey (657) was the final state qualifier.
Klentz won a sectional title Feb. 16 with a 674, as Groveport finished 21st (3,145) in the 30-team field behind champion Newark (4,030).
Also competing at sectional were senior Tyler Brown (527) and freshmen Billy DeMatteo (479), Austin Harmon (353) and Connor Lindsay (349).
The boys team finished 7-13 overall, placed seventh in the COHSBC-South at 6-8 behind champion Whitehall (12-1) and placed sixth in the OCC-Ohio at 0-5 behind champion Newark (5-0).
Girls basketball team improved on last year
The girls basketball team improved by three wins over last season for second-year coach Tirrell Sturdivant.
The Cruisers finished 4-19 overall after going 1-20 last season.
The season ended with a 67-11 loss to second-seeded Gahanna in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 15. Groveport last won a tournament game in 2005, when it defeated Northland 56-34 in the first round.
The Cruisers finished 0-14 in the OCC-Ohio to finish eighth, behind Reynoldsburg (14-0), Gahanna (11-3), Pickerington North (9-5), Pickerington Central (8-5), Newark (6-8), Lancaster (4-9) and Grove City (2-11).
Groveport loses two seniors in guards Brittany Morgan and Arkeysha Williams.
Among those expected to return are junior guards Zaria Brinkley and Tisha Lane, junior forward Hayley McKinley, sophomore guards Cassidy Brinkley and Kisha Lane and freshman forward Jordan Walton.