Seventh-year Big Walnut High School wrestling coach Luke Moore isn't afraid to set the bar high for his team, even when its roster is comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores like it is this season.
"We always try to set lofty goals," he said. "That's what we work toward. We have a really young group, but our numbers are way up. Obviously, we've got some work to do, but it's a really hard-working group. They're very focused. They come in every day and work their tails off."
The Golden Eagles are expected to be led by four senior returnees in Austin Carr (160 pounds), Austin Crow (220), Alec Eisnnicher (170) and R.J. Martin (138).
Last season, Eisnnicher became the program's first state qualifier since 2011 graduate Matt Brown (215) in 2010, going 0-2 at 170 in the Division II state tournament at Ohio State to finish with a 31-9 record.
At district last season at Heath, Eisnnicher went 3-1 and placed second. Carr and Martin also were district qualifiers, with Carr going 0-2 at 152 to finish 24-19 and Martin going 0-2 at 138 to finish 32-13.
"It's definitely not a rebuilding year," Moore said. "Even though it's a young team, we still have guys that were on varsity last year back this year. These guys have experience and know what it takes."
The 29-member roster includes two juniors in Michael Nash (170) and Jack Schnurr (145), eight sophomores in Drew Cochran (132), Nico Grier (113), Jacob Hadden (126), Tyler Hogg (220), Wes Landrum (126), Anthony Pisano (152), Evan Watkins (195) and Daniel Zitello (182) and 15 freshmen in Carson Dearth (138), Dontae Egbert (113), Garrett Gollihugh (138), Matt Halbakken (132), Chris Hale (170), Aaron Hartley (145), Nate Helsley (106), Beau Kuhlman (138), Kyle McKibbon-Warren (145), Josh Parker (126), Alex Ramsey (145), Matt Russell (113), Aaron Shadwick (145), Luke Starkey (heavyweight) and Ryan Taurone (138).
Big Walnut lost only one senior from last season in C.J. Harness, who was a district qualifier a year ago, going 1-2 at 160 to finish 23-13. Two other district qualifiers from a year ago did not return in Jhordan Lang, who went 0-2 at 182 to finish 20-19 as a junior, and Donny Didion, who went 2-2 at 133 to finish 31-13 as a sophomore.
"We're going to take a few lumps here and there," Moore said. "But we'll keep pounding away in the practice room and see what happens."
The Golden Eagles opened the season Dec. 7 by playing host to the Big Walnut Classic, which formerly was called Big Walnut Duals.
The Golden Eagles have their first OCC-Capital Division dual Thursday, Dec. 12, at home against Olentangy before competing in the Wolfpack Classic on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Worthington Kilbourne.
Big Walnut went 2-5 in the OCC-Capital last season to place sixth behind champion Mount Vernon (7-0).
"Whether we're young or old, experienced or inexperienced, our goal every year is to win the OCC," Moore said. "That's what we aim for. (The OCC-Capital) is the strongest it's been since I've been at Big Walnut. It's definitely going to be tough, but it doesn't change our goal. We're going out there to wrestle and compete."
Bowling teams have new coach
The bowling teams have a new coach this season in Katrina Hartings, who takes over for Pat McClelland.
"Bowling is one of those things that you can do really well one night, then the next night you might roll badly," Hartings said. "You take it day to day."
Juniors Donnie Good and Conner Leidtke are expected to lead the boys team, which had a 5-10 overall record last season and finished 18th (3,227) in the 30-team sectional tournament at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Newark (4,030).
Leidtke was the only member of the boys team to advance to district, where he rolled a 502 series to finish 57th of 117 competitors. He had a 150.7 average last season and Good averaged 136.9.
Also on the boys team are seniors Grant Burks, Garret Jackson, Luke Hartings and Joey Steller, sophomore Evan Thiergartner and freshmen Terrel Bohanan and Chip Hanawalt.
"There's enough of them on the boys team that I think they could do well this year," coach Hartings said.
Senior Alexis Beiwinkler is expected to lead the girls team, which went 6-7 overall last season and finished 16th (2,391) in the 25-team sectional at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Briggs (3,757).
The girls team did not have any district qualifiers last season.
Also on the roster are juniors Frankie Gianessi, Hannah Gollihugh, Amy Vlaar and Michaella Young and sophomores Mara Hartings and Holly Pinnix.
The Golden Eagles opened the season Dec. 3 against Gahanna at Capri Lanes.
The boys team won 1,989-1,952 behind a 418 two-game total by Luke Hartings. The girls team lost 1,643-1,366, as Beiwinkler had a two-game total of 310.
"I was pleased with the boys," said coach Hartings, the mother of Luke and Mara. "All of them bowled fairly well. It worked out."
The postseason has been divided into Division I and II tournaments, with both of Big Walnut's teams being in Division I.
Buckles leads boys team in opening win
The boys basketball team opened the season Dec. 3 with a 51-50 win over visiting Buckeye Valley.
Michael Buckles led Big Walnut with a game-high 16 points. Nick Herbert had eight points and Zac Asher, Logan Boyd and Matt Tarney each scored six.
The Golden Eagles opened OCC-Capital play Dec. 6 at Olentangy.