The Whetstone High School boys swimming and diving team hopes its depth will help it improve on last season.
The Braves have returned six letterwinners from last season, in which they finished third in the City League meet.
"With the leadership of the returnees and a solid group of eight newcomers, we're excited about the season," 13th-year coach John DeRing said. "This is the best depth we've had in years."
Bert Pajor, the team captain, is the lone senior on the roster. He competed in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 free relay in the Division I district meet last season at Ohio State.
Pajor is the only returnee from the medley relay, which finished 20th in 1 minute, 50.47 seconds, and the 200 free relay, which finished 21st (1:38.51). He was joined in both events by 2013 graduate Nick Nottage, Venezuelan exchange student Nico Azuad and Nathan Smith, who did not return for his sophomore season.
Pajor teamed with two other returning letterwinners in sophomores Sam Green-Lauber and Evan Myers and 2013 graduate Ben Alexander in the 400 free relay, which finished 27th (3:58.98).
Also competing at district were Nottage in the 100 breaststroke (21st, 1:05.85) and Smith in the 100 backstroke (27th, 1:02.69).
In the City League meet last season, Pajor won the 200 free (2:10.36) and Smith won the 100 back (1:06.24) to help the Braves finish third (84 points) behind Northland (103) and Centennial (91) and ahead of Eastmoor Academy (13) and Beechcroft (8).
The other three returnees are junior Ray Zeliadt and sophomores Luke Green-Lauber and Luke Woodward.
Newcomers to the team are juniors David Basye and Jose Soto and freshmen Connor Flanagan, Trevor Karnehm, Drew Marcum, Patrick McCollum, Mitchell Nottage and Stanic Ross.
Karnehm is the Braves' only diver.
"Pajor is strong in the butterfly and freestyle, Myers can help with freestyle and backstroke, Woodward is greatly improved in the breaststroke and Zeliadt is a mainstay in distance," said DeRing, who shares coaching duties with assistant Matthew Cook. "Flanagan, Nottage and Marcum have already made their presence felt as freshmen and Soto and Basye are great additions as juniors."
The Braves opened Nov. 25, beating Centennial 164-103 and losing to Hilliard Darby 162-116 at Columbus Aquatics Center.
The girls team has nine returning letterwinners, including two who competed in the Division I district meet last season in senior Ellie Downie and junior Karina Spulgis.
Downie teamed with 2013 graduates Audrey Bollas, Alana Bruzzese and Kaylina Ruth in the 200 medley relay that finished 29th (2:12.82) at district. Spulgis was joined by those same teammates in the 400 free relay that finished 22nd (4:12.47).
Bollas won the 100 fly (1:09.68) and 200 individual medley (2:29.61) in the City meet last season, as the Braves finished second (99) behind Centennial (132) and ahead of Northland (43), Eastmoor (74) and Beechcroft (20).
The other seven returnees are senior Kelli Chin, juniors Caity Haughey, Rita Knasel, Claire O'Grady and Nina Seiter and sophomores Natalie Hunt and Alice Pajor.
"Downie will lead us in the backstroke, Chin will lead our breaststrokers and be strong in free relays and Hunt has come into her own in the fly," DeRing said. "Spulgis has blossomed in the freestyle sprits, Haughey and Knasel will be freestyle and relays and Pajor will help in the backstroke. O'Grady's diving is much improved and she will help in the breast and in relays."
Newcomers are junior Jennifer Basye and freshmen Hailey Cannaday, Abigail Falor and Lillian Hill.
"Basye will fill a big hole in the IM and also is a breaststroker and Falor is solid in the freestyle," DeRing said. "Our returnees have improved and we have talented newcomers, but we lack depth."
The Braves lost to Centennial 155-108 and Darby 163-95 in their opener Nov. 25. They then defeated Eastmoor 142-86 and lost to Big Walnut 150-113 on Dec. 2 at Columbus Aquatics Center.
Wrestling team has added depth
The wrestling team returns seven letterwinners, including five starters, from last season.
Seniors Christian Bobo (170 pounds), Ricky Bowman (152), Ethan Johnson (182) and Chris North (160) and junior Nate Perry (113) are the returning starters. The other two returning letterwinners are junior Zach Arnold (182) and sophomore Ferris Clark (160).
"We have experience in the upper-middleweights, but we lack experience in the lower-middleweights," eighth-year coach Tom Jones said. "We also have depth and three very experienced freshmen."
Bobo posted a 22-11 record at 152 last season. North finished 13-8 at 170 a year ago and Bowman went 17-16 at 145.
The Braves had three champions and six top-three finishers in the 16-team City League tournament last season, as they finished third (170) behind Mifflin (192.5) and Columbus West (187).
North and 2013 graduates Tony Lehnen (113) and Daylon Smothers (132) won league titles a year ago. Bobo was runner-up and 2013 graduates Cameron Au (160) and Kevin Ellison (195) both finished third.
Bobo, Bowman, North and Perry all competed in the 11-team Division I sectional tournament last season at Marys-ville, as the Braves finished ninth (27) behind champion Marysville (265.5).
Others in the program include seniors Demetrius Burrell (182/195) and Demetrius Wade (heavyweight), juniors Kevon Brunton (126) and Jeremy Polk (heavyweight), sophomores Ryan Bragg (182), John Drummond (106/113), Noel Kellenburg (145/138) and Noah Rife (220) and freshmen Robert Beck (170), Joseph Brofford (138), Joe Evans (182/170), Josh Gearheart (220), John Harbert (152/145), Justin McDaniel (160), Miles Poff (152), Edson Ramirez (145/138), Justin Rodriguez (106), Aaron Rollin-Sauber (120) and Jessie Sellers (126).
"Wade has started 2-0 and looks like he could be one to watch, in addition to North, Bobo and Bowman," Jones said. "Rodriguez and Ramirez were middle school state alternates and Poff had a 20-win season in middle school. I like our depth; we've got 35 wrestlers.
"We want to get six kids to district and four to state. We want to win 80 percent of our matches and win the City tournament."
Whetstone opened Nov. 30 in the seven-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales, finishing sixth (133) behind champion St. Charles (200).