For the second consecutive season, the Canal Winchester High School wrestling team is feeling the impact of low numbers.
After starting last season with only 17 athletes on their roster, the Indians opened this season with just 13.
Canal Winchester wasn't able to fill four weight classes when it opened Nov. 30 by finishing 12th (75 points) in the 16-team Cambridge Invitational behind champion Cambridge (228).
"The biggest difference is the lack of experience we are dealing with lately at the high school," coach Trent Brooks said. "This year's team is very similar to last year in that we will have more first-time wrestlers in the lineup than experienced wrestlers. We went through a nice spell of large middle school classes carrying over to the high school, which really helped us be competitive as a team.
"Over the past few years, the numbers have dropped tremendously, leading us to get many first-year wrestlers from the school. This year's middle school team is looking pretty good, so hopefully good things will be in the near future for Canal Winchester wrestling."
Four starters have returned in seniors Emanuel Barnes (145 pounds), Justin Burge (170) and Kevin Wade (heavyweight) and junior Nick Hammond (160).
In the Cambridge Invitational, Hammond went 5-0 to place first and Barnes went 4-1 and finished third.
Last season, Hammond finished 45-9 at 145 after going 1-2 in the Division I district tournament at Hilliard Darby.
Barnes, who finished 35-20 at 132, and Wade, who finished 14-18 at heavyweight, both were district alternates a year ago after going 2-2 and placing fifth in the sectional at Watkins Memorial.
Burge finished 11-22 at 182 last season.
Canal Winchester has six first-year starters in juniors Madison Berkemeier (120) and Cade Gayegoy (152), sophomores Demetrius Bensonhaver (106), Jarret Gable (113) and Alex Tannehill (182) and freshman Bryant Gerritsen (126).
The Indians entered the season vacancies at 132, 138, 195 and 220.
"Experience is our big weakness," Brooks said. "... (The first-year starters) are a good group of kids and are all working hard to better themselves every day."
Canal Winchester went 2-5 in MSL-Buckeye Division dual matches last season to tie Logan Elm for fifth behind champion Amanda-Clearcreek (7-0). The Indians are now in the OCC-Cardinal.
Last season, Darby won the OCC-Cardinal championship, going 7-0 to finish ahead of Hilliard Bradley (6-1), Westerville North, Worthington Kilbourne (4-3), Dublin Jerome (3-4), Westerville South (2-5), Dublin Scioto (1-6) and Westerville Central (0-7).
Kilbourne has moved to the OCC-Capital.
"The Hilliard teams are always tough and Westerville North has a tremendous program," Brooks said.
Barnes acknowledges that the Indians likely will struggle in the postseason from a team standpoint given their low numbers and inexperience, but he believes that he and some of his teammates have a chance to reach district and possibly state.
The Indians' only state qualifier last season was 2013 graduate Max Lacey, who went 1-2 at 220 at state a year ago to finish 50-6 on the season.
"We have a bunch of new starters, so we're building this team up from scratch," Barnes said.
"Me and Nick have both been wrestling a long time, so we expect ourselves to go far in the tournament and possibly make it to state. The four veterans on our team all should do well in the tournament if we wrestle well."
Boys basketball team loses league opener
The boys basketball team split a pair of games last week, beating Fisher Catholic 58-28 on Dec. 10 before losing to Westerville Central 53-33 in its OCC-Cardinal opener Dec. 13.
Canal Winchester was 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the league before playing Hilliard Darby on Dec. 17.
Against Fisher Catholic, Brendan Snyder had 15 points and Daltyn Colley and Kamon Craine each scored 13.
Girls basketball team falls to Warhawks
The girls basketball team was 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Hilliard Darby on Dec. 17.
Canal Winchester lost to Westerville Central 73-45 in a league game Dec. 13.
Jasmine Smith led the Indians with 10 points and Taylor Thompson scored eight.