Whetstone High School boys and girls swimming and diving coach John DeRing is excited about his team's potential in the postseason.
The Braves will compete in the Division I sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 9, at Upper Arlington and, for the first time in years, DeRing thinks all of his relays are in good position to advance to the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State.
The winner of each event qualifies for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until district.
"The past three years we've not had the numbers to be successful in relays, but I could see us making it to district in all six this season," DeRing said. "It's been at least seven or eight years since we've accomplished that."
Last season, five of Whetstone's relays reached district, including all three for the boys team.
On the boys side, DeRing plans to have Nico Azuad, Nathan Smith, Bert Pajor and Nick Nottage comprise both the 200-yard medley and 200 freestyle relays. The 400 free relay is expected to consist of Pajor, Ben Alexander, Evan Myers and Mike Yokusuk.
"I think Nick Nottage should make it through in the 100 breaststroke and maybe the 200 individual medley, and Smith should make it in the 100 backstroke," DeRing said. "Nottage is a fourth-year swimmer who has been to district every year. He is an excellent practice swimmer and loves to compete. His best races are against stronger competition.
"Smith is a freshman who has no idea how good he is or how good he can be. He is very raw. His backstroke is ugly, yet he's within three seconds of our school record."
Last season, the boys team finished 11th (18 points) in the 12-team sectional at UA, behind the champion and host Golden Bears (397.5). At district, the 200 free (1 minute, 49.47 seconds), 400 free (4:24.39) and 200 medley (2:05.12), as all three placed 28th.
In the City League meet Feb. 2 at Columbus Aquatics Center, Pajor won the 200 free (2:10.36) and Smith won the 100 back (1:06.24), as Whetstone placed third (84) behind Northland (103) and Centennial (91) and ahead of Eastmoor Academy (13) and Beechcroft (8).
For the girls team at sectional, DeRing expects to have Ellie Downey, Alana Bruzzese, Audrey Bollas and Kaylina Ruth in the 200 medley and 200 free relays and Bruzzese, Karina Spulgis, Ruth and Bollas in the 400 free relay.
"Audrey Bollas should make it in the 100 (butterfly) individually, too," DeRing said. "She deserves to have that type of success because she never misses a practice and never gives me a moment of worry. She's a great leader for us."
Last season, Whetstone tied Central Crossing for 11th (16) in the 12-team sectional at UA, behind the champion Bears (446). At district, the 200 free relay finished 30th (1:56.88), the 200 medley relay finished 26th (2:05.35) and 2012 graduate Olivia Degitz finished 27th in the 100 free (57.56) and 21st in the 100 back (1:03.5).
Despite dealing with a bloody nose minutes before competing in the 100 fly in the City meet, Bollas won the event in 1:09.68. She also won the 200 IM (2:29.61), as the Braves finished second (99) behind Centennial (132) and ahead of Northland (43), Eastmoor (74) and Beechcroft (20).
"I wasn't really prepared for (the bloody nose) and I wasn't pushed, so I just kind of got through it," Bollas said of her performance in the 100 fly. "Right now, I think my best chance to get to district is in the relays. The 200 medley (relay) cut three seconds off our season-best and there were a lot of season-bests for the team. Now we're hoping to cut more (time) at sectional."
The 200 medley and 200 free relays both finished second in the City meet.
Wrestlers preparing for City tourney
The wrestling team will compete in City League tournament Saturday, Feb. 9, at Centennial before preparing for the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Marysville.
Last season, the Braves finished fourth (135 points) in the 16-team league tournament behind Marion-Franklin (227), Centennial (198.5) and Columbus West (195), marking their best finish since they were City runners-up in 2007.
Senior Tony Lehnen (106 or 113 pounds) is seeking his third consecutive league title after finishing first at 106 the past two seasons. He also advanced to the district tournament a year ago.
Whetstone is seeded 35th of 40 Division I teams in the district. Also competing in the 10-team sectional are top-seeded Marysville, eighth-seeded Westerville North, Briggs, Dublin Jerome, Franklin Heights, Gahanna, Lancaster, Northland and West.
Last season, the Braves finished ninth (69) in the 10-team sectional at Watkins Memorial behind champion Lancaster (220.5) and finished 35th (3) at district behind champion Marysville (174) as 37 teams scored.
Boys basketball team ends losing streak
The boys basketball team snapped a six-game losing streak by beating Linden-McKinley 55-50 on Jan. 29 behind 15 points apiece from guards Gary Hoover and Claude Bogan and eight from guard Aaron Adair.
It was the Braves' first win since beating Orrville Kingsway Christian 83-33 on Dec. 28.
Whetstone lost to Mifflin 71-59 on Feb. 1 to fall to 4-13 overall and 2-10 in the City-North. Hoover had 24 points and Bogan scored 11.
Whetstone will play host to Beechcroft on Friday, Feb. 8, in a City-North game before closing league play Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Brookhaven.
The Division I district tournament draw will be held Sunday, Feb. 10.
Girls team wins final two league games
The girls basketball team closes the regular season Friday, Feb. 8, at Briggs.
The Braves were 7-13 overall before playing Columbus International on Feb. 5 and finished 5-9 in the City-North after defeating Mifflin 43-41 on Feb. 1. It was their second consecutive league win.
Whetstone defeated Linden-McKinley 50-20 in a league game Jan. 29 behind 15 points from forward Kalie Mascarello and nine from guard Lily Morris.
Against Mifflin, guard Cecilia Bulgrin had 13 points and Mascarello and Morris both scored 10, as the Braves went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Whetstone is seeded 38th of 43 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play at third-seeded Olentangy Orange in the first round Feb. 16.