Delaware Hayes High School wrestling coach Josh Heffernan is hoping a strong start to the season proves his team is on the fast track to success.
"We knew that our success this season would be based on how quickly our freshmen and our young guys matured and they have been terrific," he said. "They're grasping and competing and they're farther along than I anticipated."
Heffernan attributes the start to a strategic change and the Pacers' buying into the strength and conditioning program set forth by assistant coach Josh Lamb.
"Our youth program is running strong and we've always been strong in middle school, but we were losing kids when they reached high school," Heffernan said. "So we decided that our middle school coach, Kevin Rieman, would move up with this group of freshmen. That way the kids are comfortable going from middle school to high school because the coach is coming, too. So they know his philosophy, teaching techniques and drills and that retention has been a key.
"Secondly, the development of our strength and conditioning program with Josh Lamb has paid dividends. We haven't backed it off during the season. The kids are still lifting three times a week during the season and continuing to get stronger. Other schools lift occasionally to maintain strength, but we're still building. The boys love it and the culture carries over to the mats."
The Pacers had strong performances over the holiday break, finishing 12th (88 points) in the 27-team Berman Holiday Classic on Dec. 27 and 28 at Chicago Palatine behind champion Hinsdale Central (192.5) and placing second in the six-team Brian Stultz Memorial Duals on Jan. 5 at Delta.
In the Berman Holiday Classic, junior Shawn Johnson placed third at 195 pounds, junior Andrew Sierawski (182) and freshman Greg Brusco (106) both finished fifth and junior Nick Beyer (145) was eighth.
"We showed significant improvement in Chicago against a lot of Illinois state-placers," Heffernan said. "I think we were 25th last year. Plus, we lost two overtime matches and four other matches by one point. We left some points on the table, but I was very pleased with the way we competed."
In the Brian Stultz Memorial Duals, Delaware lost to Delta 40-28 after beating Hicksville 70-10, Columbus South 72-6, Gibsonburg 66-9 and Edgerton 51-6.
Entering last week, Sierawski was 21-2, Johnson was 16-3, Beyer was 14-9, Raymond Simpson (152) was 17-4, Wyatt Davis (126) was 15-6 and Colton Richard (220) was 11-5.
Among the freshmen, Brusco was 19-3, Chris Martinez (170) was 14-6 and Raezel Garrett (132) was 11-5.
Boys basketball team improving
The boys basketball team has improved its ball movement and defense in recent weeks, according to coach Jordan Blackburn.
"Our defensive accountability has increased and the ball movement has been much better the past four or five games," Blackburn said. "The ball movement and our unselfish play has allowed us to get easier looks at the basket and we're taking advantage of that."
Delaware was 30-for-47 from the field in an 80-55 win over Franklin Heights on Jan. 8 and was 25-for-36 from the field in a 67-41 win over Mount Vernon on Jan. 4. The Pacers were 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Olentangy on Jan. 11.
Senior point guard Mike Wells, who suffered a concussion in a 69-46 loss to Reynoldsburg on Dec. 15, returned to the lineup in a 53-48 win over Dublin Jerome on Dec. 29.
"Last season, he was scoring over 25 points per game but was taking a lot of shots to get them because we didn't have others who could step up and help in the scoring category," Blackburn said. "He's still getting his points this season but is a lot more efficient, doing it with far fewer shot attempts. He likes that, though, because he's able to get his teammates involved."
Against Franklin Heights, Wells had 26 points, going 10-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and made both of his free-throw attempts. Junior guard Thoeun Sorn had 17 points, sophomore guard Khalil Iverson scored 13 and senior wing player Griffin Kinney scored 10.
"Griffin and Khalil are very crucial to our team because they're jump-starters for us," Blackburn said. "Griffin has been close to a few triple-doubles this season and we've come to expect double-doubles from Khalil, even though he's only a sophomore.
"Thoeun started the season with the junior varsity because he was rusty after football. He's been splitting time (between varsity and j.v.) until (the Franklin Heights game). He came off the bench to score 17 and has definitely elevated his game."
The Pacers' OCC-Capital game at Olentangy Orange on Dec. 21 was postponed because of bad weather and has yet to be rescheduled.
Swim teams kept busy over holiday break
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams stayed busy over the holiday break, competing in four events.
The girls team finished second (430) in the Delaware Invitational on Jan. 5 at Ohio Wesleyan University behind Watterson (502) and placed third (350) in the Delaware County Classic on Dec. 22 behind Olentangy Liberty (499) and Olentangy (391). In addition, the Pacers defeated Worthington Kilbourne 100-62 and Olentangy 96-70 in a meet Jan. 3 and finished third (267) in the 28-team Little Giant Invitational on Dec. 29 behind host Fremont Ross (510) and Perrysburg (308).
In the Little Giant Invitational, Reagan DeWitt won the 500-yard freestyle in 5 minutes, 20.59 seconds and the 200 medley relay team of DeWitt, Brittany Puthoff, Lindsey Norris and Samantha Curtin was second (1:56.37).
In the Delaware County Classic, the 200 medley relay finished first in a meet-record 1:52.68 and DeWitt won the 200 individual medley (2:17.51) and the 500 free (5:24.6). In the Delaware Invitational, Norris won the 100 butterfly (1:02.31) and teamed with Curtin, Puthoff and Susan Thomson to win the 200 free relay (1:43.92) and teamed with Thomson, Bethany Ward and DeWitt to win the 400 free relay (3:53).
For the boys, Cameron Hackett set a pool record by winning the 500 free in 4:57.68 during the Delaware County Classic, as the Pacers finished fourth (287) behind champion Liberty (429). Delaware also finished fourth (329) in the Delaware Invitational behind champion North Robinson Colonel Crawford (449).
In the Little Giant Invitational, Hackett won the 100 backstroke (56.91) and teamed with Anthony Sanfillipo, Thomas Lenhart and Skyler Pollock to place second in the 200 medley relay (1:48.52).
Delaware defeated Olentangy 84-77 and lost to Kilbourne 100-62 on Jan. 3.