The Whetstone High School wrestling team has shifted its focus to the postseason after falling short of its goal to win the City League title.
The Braves had three champions and three other top-three placers in the City tournament Feb. 9 at Centennial but finished third with 170 points, behind Mifflin (192.5) and Columbus West (187).
Marion-Franklin (148.5) was fourth, followed by Columbus South (124), Brookhaven (98), Centennial (82), Walnut Ridge (74), Briggs (61.5), Columbus East (58), Northland (58), Linden-McKinley (56.5), Africentric (39), Independence (37.5) and Beechcroft (18).
"Mifflin just had too many guys and we didn't fill four weight classes," coach Tom Jones said. "I couldn't be prouder of these guys. They worked their butts off. It's been 30 years since we won the title, but I'm just so happy with these guys."
Seniors Tony Lehnen (113 pounds) and Daylon Smother (132) and junior Chris North (170) each won City titles. Junior Christian Bobo (152) was runner-up and seniors Cameron Au (160) and Kevin Ellison (195) both placed third.
"Tony Lehnen was just cleared to wrestle the day before because of a bad knee," Jones said. "He hadn't wrestled all week and then he went out there and won a major decision in the final (16-5 over Africentric's Gabriel Jackson). He showed his true champion form."
It was the third league title for Lehnen, who improved to 19-5.
Smother pinned Mifflin's Maurice Chatman in 1 minute, 55 seconds in his championship match and improved to 21-1 and North defeated East's Andre Gibbons 14-13 in his final and improved to 13-5.
"Daylon won all four of his matches with first-period pins, including the first one in 14 seconds," Jones said. "North won a dramatic final. He was down a point with 15 seconds left and took (Gibbons) down to win it."
Bobo lost to Mifflin's Hannibal Tate 11-2 in his final and is 22-8.
"Tate qualified for state at Ready as a freshman and was a district qualifier last year at Hilliard Davidson," Jones said. "Christian wrestled really well and I think he'd like another shot at Tate again next year."
Au lost to eventual champion Gabe Valentine of South in a semifinal, 15-10, but he rebounded to beat Brook-haven's Jalen Bonner 14-12 in the third-place match to improve to 26-8. Ellison beat Northland's Saul Arias 5-3 in his third-place match to improve to 20-7.
Junior Ricky Bowman (145) placed fourth and is 17-14, and seniors Tyrik Zegler (heavyweight) and Michael Gilespie (138) both placed sixth.
Whetstone is seeded 35th of 40 teams in the district in Division I and will compete in the 10-team sectional Saturday, Feb. 16, at Marysville. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
Lehnen was a district qualifier, going 0-2 at 106.
"The most we've had make district in the same season is three and I sure would love to beat that record," Jones said. "The boys are excited. Of the 10 teams in our sectional, we've already competed against seven."
Also competing in the same sectional as the Braves are top-seeded Marysville, eighth-seeded Westerville North, Gahanna (15th), Lancaster (17th), Dublin Jerome (20th), West (27th), Franklin Heights (34th), Northland (37th) and Briggs (40th).
Smith leads way for boys swim team
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams had hopes of advancing all six relays to the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 16, at Ohio State.
That didn't happen when the Braves competed in the sectional Feb. 9 at Upper Arlington, as both teams had their 400-yard freestyle relay and 200 medley relay qualify for district but not their 200 free relays.
"It was a frustrating day in some aspects because these kids worked so hard all season and we had high expectations despite competing in the same sectional as Upper Arlington, St. Charles and Watterson," coach John DeRing said. "Unfortunately, Nick Nottage has been sick and he was not on top of his game and that hurt us in the boys 200 free relay."
The winner of each sectional swimming event automatically qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until district.
The only individual qualifier for the boys team was freshman Nathan Smith, finished 14th (1 minutes, 2.67 seconds) at sectional and is seeded 29th at district.
"He knocked some time off his previous-best of 1:03.1 and he just doesn't understand his potential," DeRing said. "He's working hard and paying attention."
The 200 medley relay of Smith, Nottage, Bert Pajor and Niko Azuad finished fifth (1:51.43) and is seeded 17th at district, and the 400 free relay of Ben Alexander, Evan Myers, Sam Green-Lauber and Pajor finished 10th (4:06.66) and is seeded 28th.
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event qualify for the state meet Feb. 21-23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 24 at-large district berths will be awarded in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast district sites. The top three boys divers and top four girls divers advance to state.
"The medley relay finished higher than expected and swam well, but it wasn't their best time," DeRing said. "They were solid in the fastest heat and held their own. We made a lineup change in the 400 free relay and those guys did very well.
"We also had some great times in events where we didn't make it out. I was happy about that. As a coach, all you can ask is that the kids put forth their best efforts. I was proud that many of them were able to do that."
In the 100 free, Pajor finished 17th (54.4), Smith finished 18th (54.56) and Azuad finished 26th (56.72). All three set personal bests.
The boys team finished ninth (36) in the 12-team sectional behind champion UA (351) and the girls team finished 11th (20) behind champion UA (463).
The girls 400 free relay of Alana Bruzzese, Karina Spulgis, Kaylina Ruth and Audrey Bollas placed eighth (4:19.01) and is seeded 23rd for district, and the 200 medley relay of Eleanor Downie, Bruzzese, Bollas and Ruth was ninth (2:13.26) and is seeded 28th.
"The medley relay swam well," DeRing said. "They knocked two seconds off their seed time. The 400 relay was a new group. Audrey and Alana came to me and asked to be in it instead of one of their individual events. We threw Kaylina in and I gave the fourth leg to Karina Spulgis. She went out and cut five-plus seconds off her previous-best 100. It was incredible."
Girls basketball team gets set for postseason
The girls basketball team closed the regular season Feb. 8, losing to Briggs 56-34.
Whetstone finished 5-9 in the City League-North Division to tie East for fifth, behind Northland (14-0), Brookhaven (11-3), Centennial (11-3) and Beechcroft (6-8) and ahead of Mifflin (4-10) and Linden-McKinley (0-14).
The Braves are 8-14 overall and are seeded 38th of 43 teams in the district. They will play at third-seeded Olentangy Orange in the first round of the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 16. The winner will play host to 39th-seeded Chillicothe in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Orange is 19-2 overall and won the OCC-Capital Division at 14-0. The Pioneers, whose losses were to Northland (69-59 on Dec. 10) and Reynoldsburg (62-58 on Jan. 14), are led by senior guards Taylor Agler and Maddy Joseph, senior forward Mya Walker and 6-foot-2 junior post player Sarah Sagerer.
Whetstone, which hasn't won a tournament game since 2005-06 season when it defeated West 51-40 in the first round, lost to Northland 94-24 on Dec. 14 and 88-20 on Jan. 18 and lost to Chillicothe 36-35 on Nov. 28.
Against Chillicothe, forward Kalie Mascarello led the Braves with 14 points and center Elizabeth Khoury scored eight. Guard Jenna Holton had 18 points for the Cavaliers.
Against Briggs, guard Cecilia Bulgrin had 11 points, Mascarello scored nine and guard Arionna Darling scored seven.
The Braves defeated Columbus International 80-11 on Feb. 5, as Mascarello had 16 points and Bulgrin scored 10.
Boys basketball team closing regular season
The boys basketball team will close the regular season Friday, Feb. 15, at Briggs.
Whetstone was 6-13 overall and 3-10 in the City-North before playing Brookhaven on Feb. 12. The Braves defeated Beechcroft 70-52 on Feb. 8 after beating Columbus International 70-45 on Feb. 5.
Against International, guard Gary Hoover had 17 points, with guard Aaron Adair (14) and forwards Matt Moyer (12) and Dre Mills (10) also scoring in double figures.
Guard Claude Bogan had a season-high 31 points against Beechcroft. Moyer (13) and Adair (10) also scored in double figures.
Whetstone was seeded 37th for the Division I district tournament and will play Feb. 23 at eighth-seeded Reynoldsburg.