Whetstone High School wrestling coach Tom Jones likes the way his team is progressing with the City League tournament approaching.
The 16-team league tournament will be held Feb. 9 at Centennial. Last season, the Braves scored 135 points to finish fourth behind Marion-Franklin (227), Centennial (198.5) and Columbus West (195), marking their best finish since being City runners-up in 2007. Marion-Franklin has won five consecutive City titles.
"I think we still haven't put our best team on the mat yet," Jones said. "I think that we are starting to realize our full potential and our practices are starting to reflect that."
Through Jan. 9, the Braves had four seniors with double-digit wins, including Daylon Smothers, who was 14-0 at 132 pounds with seven pins and 30 takedowns. The others were Tony Lehnen (113), who was 14-3 with 35 takedowns; Cameron Au (160), who was 13-3 with nine pins; and Kevin Ellison (220), who was 12-2 with five pins and 19 takedowns.
Junior Christian Bobo (160) was 9-4 with six pins and 20 takedowns and junior Ricky Bowman (145) was 9-6 with six pins and 25 takedowns.
"We had a large group returning and they have the experience," Jones said. "They've all been wrestling well. I'm pleasantly surprised at Ricky Bowman, who was a transfer from St. Charles, and Tyrik Zegler (195), who is a first-year wrestler as a senior."
The Braves finished second in a 10-team tournament Dec. 22 at East Knox.
"I think even though we will face tougher competition in the second half of the season, we should still be successful, if not more successful than we were in the first half of the season," Jones said.
Swimmers compete in Northeast Classic
Swimming and diving coach John DeRing likes what he has seen from his teams so far this season.
"This has been a wonderful season with the amazing attitude of the kids as well as their versatility in terms of covering strokes," said DeRing, who is in his fifth season as coach and has been with the program since 2001. "They practice hard and we haven't lost many throughout the season, which we normally do. The kids have a better than 3.0 grade-point average and we're very proud of that. It's been an extraordinary year and it's hard to believe that we have just a handful of meets left."
DeRing took eight swimmers to compete in the Northeast Classic, which was held Jan. 12 at the same site as the state meet, the Branin Natatorium in Canton. The boys team was represented by Nicolas Azuad, Nick Nottage, Bert Pajor and Nathan Smith and competing from the girls team were Audrey Bollas, Alana Bruzzese, Ellie Downe and Kaylina Ruth.
The four boys combined to post the program's best time in the 200-yard medley relay since 2009 when they finished in 1 minute, 50.68 seconds. The relay finished 12th in one of two preliminary groups.
"In the medley relay, I'm watching the splits and going crazy," DeRing said. "All four were career bests. They did everything right. It was so awesome. They knocked off five seconds from their previous best."
Also in the preliminaries, Smith, a freshman, finished 27th in the 100 backstroke (1:03.77) and Nottage, a senior, finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.91) and 26th (2:18.06) in the 200 individual medley.
"Smith's time in the backstroke is within four seconds of our school record, which was set way back in 1969," DeRing said. "If he doesn't get the record this season, he definitely will by next season. Heck, he's still a rough draft. Nottage hadn't competed in the 100 breast all season and he went out and got a (personal record)."
Competing in one of two preliminaries, the four girls combined to finish 23rd in the 200 free relay in a season-best 1:56.75 and Bollas, a senior, finished 18th in the 200 IM (2:32.14).
"Our kids likely won't get the chance to compete there at state so it's kind of their reward, but when they went out and competed like that, it was terrific," DeRing said. "It's the best showing we've ever had there. It was just a unique day where everything fell into place."
Team scores were not kept in the Northeast Classic.
Girls basketball team defeats Beechcroft
The girls basketball team was 4-10 overall and 2-7 in the City League-North Division before playing Columbus East on Jan. 15.
The Braves beat Beechcroft 60-57 on Jan. 8, as guard Arionna Darling made a free throw with 27 seconds remaining to break a 57-all tie and guard Cecilia Bulgrin closed the scoring with a layup in the waning moments.
Lily Morris, a freshman guard, led Whetstone with 18 points and was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. The Braves also got 11 points from forward Colleen Kelly and 10 points and 11 rebounds from Bulgrin.
Whetstone lost to Centennial 65-38 on Jan. 11. Kalie Mascarello, a junior forward and three-year starter, had 12 points and Bulgrin scored eight.