Having returned a program-record eight Division I district qualifiers from last season, including two state qualifiers in Greg Brusco and Shawn Johnson, the Delaware Hayes High School wrestling team set its sights on winning its first league title this year.
The quest for a league championship began in earnest Jan. 9 when the Pacers battled Olentangy Orange and Big Walnut in an OCC-Capital double-dual at New Albany. The Pacers beat the Pioneers 58-12 and the Eagles 72-6 to improve to 3-0.
"We've been focused on this and next week for a long time," said coach Josh Heffernan, whose team opened league action by beating Franklin Heights 82-0 on Dec. 19. "We marked down these two weeks and know how much is riding on them in terms of a league championship.
"Orange and Big Walnut are good teams with some great wrestlers and both teams are well coached. Our guys knew that and came ready to wrestle. They wrestled with intensity, and they wrestled to win. That's all I can ask."
Next up for Delaware are OCC-Capital duals against host Olentangy and defending league champion Mount Vernon on Thursday, Jan. 16. Last season, the Pacers placed second in the league at 6-1, behind Mount Vernon (7-0).
"It will be a huge week for us," Heffernan said. "Not only will we be going against two very good teams in our league, but then we turn around and compete in the Top Gun, which is a rugged tournament (Saturday, Jan. 17, at Alliance).
"In addition to trying to win an OCC championship, we're trying to prepare the kids to build onto the postseason success we had last year. We're in a very good wrestling league and we also saw some great teams and individuals in the Harrison Duals (Dec. 7), the Olentangy Liberty Super Duals (Dec. 14) and the Berman Holiday Classic (Dec. 27 and 28 in Palatine, Ill.). Now we have the Top Gun and the Rieman Invitational (Jan. 25 at home)."
The Pacers competed in two events over the holiday break, finishing sixth (141) in the 32-team Berman Holiday Classic behind Glenbard (Ill.) East (177) and winning (212) the 11-team Bobcat Invitational on Jan. 4 at Grandview ahead of runner-up Williamsport Westfall (161) despite using a lineup comprised mostly of backups.
"I was very happy with the way we wrestled," Heffernan said. "We scored points in every weight class that we competed in (in the Berman Holiday Classic). We finished sixth and we didn't have Greg Brusco or Nick Beyer. Brusco wasn't fully healthy coming off an injury and Beyer was held out because of a concussion.
"It's a tough tournament, too. The Chicago-area schools are much larger than Ohio's big schools. They have a lot more pool to draw from, so you run into some great competition there."
Brusco (126 pounds) placed fourth at state last season at 113 and Beyer (152) was a district qualifier at 152 a year ago.
Andrew Sierawski (220), who was a district qualifier last season at 182, was the Pacers' lone winner in the Berman Holiday Classic to improve to 18-1 on the season. He pinned Darien (Ill.) Hinsdale South's Josh King in 5 minutes, 21 seconds in the final after pinning Hinsdale (Ill.) Central's Matt Allen in 5:18 in a semifinal. King was ranked third at his weight class in the large-school division in Illinois and Allen was fifth.
"He surpassed 100 career wins on Dec. 14 and I think he has 108 now," Heffernan said of Sierawski, who did not compete in the Bobcat Invitational. "He has 79 pins. He's just relentless. Once he gets you, you're done. In the semifinal and in the final, he kept it close, saw an opportunity and took them both and both resulted in pins."
Also in the Berman Holiday Classic, Colton Richard placed third at 195 to improve to 14-2, Johnson placed third at 182 to improve to 12-4, Chris Martinez finished fourth at 170 to improve to 17-5 and Raymond Simpson was 15-7 after finishing eighth at 160.
Winning titles in the Bobcat Invitational were Brusco (132), Raezel Garrett (145) and Lamin Kandeh (195). Finishing second were Beyer (152), Tommy Detunno (106) and Derrick Sumner (170).
Girls swimmers win home invitational
The girls swimming and diving team won the Delaware Invitational title for the third time in the last four seasons, scoring 428 points to top runner-up Watterson (384) in the 13-team meet held Jan. 4 at Ohio Wesleyan.
The Pacers won seven of the 12 events. Brooke Glesenkamp won both the 50-yard freestyle (25.23 seconds) and 100 free (54.99). Other individual winners were Samantha Curtin in the 200 free (1:59.95), Regan DeWitt in the 100 backstroke (1:02.33) and Brittany Puthoff in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.35).
Delaware set a meet record in winning the 400 free relay, as Curtin, DeWitt, Puthoff and Glesenkamp finished in 3:43.45, and Curtin, Puthoff, Glesenkamp and Marisa Sulek combined to win the 200 free relay (1:43.33).
"It was a solid team performance for our first meet of 2014," coach Bill Rietz said. "The senior leadership was evident when you look at the top finishers in both relays and individual events. We place emphasis on this meet and the role-modeling by our veterans was outstanding. The freshmen performed well in their first Delaware Invitational."
The boys team finished third (372) behind Hilliard Darby (436) and Westerville South (422). Erik Richards set a meet record while finishing first in diving (172.15 points).
Other winners were Anthony Hinton in the 50 free (22.13), Skyler Pollock in the 500 free (5:03.53) and the 200 free relay of Hinton, Pollock, Dustin Buschman and Thomas Blackwood (1:34.56).
"The four freshman boys (Blackwood, Remy Curtin, Craig Klumpp and Noah Planisek) turned in season-best times in both of their individual events and scored team points," Rietz said. "I feel (both the boys and girls teams) are now in a solid position to push on through the third month of the season in preparation for the postseason."
Win streak ends for boys basketball team
The boys basketball team defeated Mount Vernon 53-30 in an OCC-Capital contest Jan. 3 to extend its winning streak to five games before losing to Franklin Heights 48-42 in a league game Jan. 8.
Khalil Iverson had 18 points and Noble Moore scored 11 against Mount Vernon, and Iverson scored 22 and Moore added 11 against Franklin Heights.
The Pacers were 7-3 and 3-3 before playing Olentangy on Jan. 10.