With freshmen occupying six of its 14 weight classes, the Dublin Coffman High School wrestling team has struggled with consistency this season.
"It's been tough getting them to buy into everything we've been preaching as a coaching staff," first-year coach Chance Van Gundy said of the freshmen. "The one thing that has been missing for us has been the consistent wins and that's been a tall order for a young team like this."
There are recent signs of improvement, however.
The Shamrocks defeated Olentangy Liberty 34-23 in an OCC-Central Division match Jan. 31 and then placed third (214) in the 17-team John Deno Tournament on Feb. 2 behind champion and host Athens (367) and Logan (242).
Liberty was ranked eighth in the Division I area coaches poll released Jan. 25.
Coffman closes out the regular season with an OCC-Central match Thursday, Feb. 7, at Hilliard Davidson. The Shamrocks are tied with Central Crossing and Upper Arlington for fifth in the league at 2-4, behind Marysville (6-0), Thomas Worthington (5-1), Davidson (4-2) and Liberty (3-3) and ahead of Westland (0-6).
In the John Deno Tournament, senior Markell Wooden finished first at 160 pounds. Also placing in the top eight were juniors Andrew Muncrief (170, seventh) and Riley Young (heavyweight, third), sophomores Kevin Bedle (145, fifth) and Adnan Mohamud (132, fifth) and freshmen Stephen Headings (152, fourth), Nate Longo (126, eighth), Lukas Manarolla (120, second) and Willy Plaisir (138, sixth).
Wooden, a state alternate last season, has a 31-3 record on the season and was ranked third in his weight class in the Jan. 25 district coaches poll.
"I know a lot of guys have had their heads down this season," said Manarolla, who improved to 19-10 with his performance in the John Deno Tournament. "This will really give the guys some inspiration. The coaches had a long talk with us before (the match against Liberty) and told us that if we pulled (a win) off, we'd probably get noticed for being a better team, and we pulled it off."
Coffman lost eight wrestlers from a year ago to graduation, including three state qualifiers in Chris Mullucey (120), Ryan Murdock (126) and Joe Schulze (132).
In addition, Bob Stoll retired as coach after leading the program for 17 seasons. During his tenure with the Shamrocks, he coached 34 state qualifiers, one state runner-up and 14 state placers.
Van Gundy, who spent the past three seasons as the coach at Ready where he helped Patrick Garren place third at heavyweight in the Division III state tournament last season, wants to see that tradition continue.
"This group didn't come in with a lot of credentials, but their attitude has been great," Van Gundy said. "To be honest with you, we've laid an egg the past two months. But we've had some guys show up and they start feeding off each other and that's how you build a team."
The Shamrocks will compete in the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16 at Watkins Memorial. The top four finishers in each weight class in each of the four sectional sites advance to the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
Joining Coffman in the Watkins Memorial sectional are Canal Winchester, Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy, Olentangy Orange, Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg, Thomas, Watkins Memorial and Zanesville.
Three Celtics win titles in All-North tourney
Jerome placed fifth (150.5) of 14 teams in its All-North Tournament on Feb. 2, behind champion Mount Vernon (244.5).
Winning titles were senior Brett Mowery (220), sophomore Liam Dunlea (120) and freshman Seth Transue (106). Placing second were senior Andrew Pearson (152) and junior Logan Mosher (138).
Jerome defeated Westerville South 37-24 on Jan. 31 in the OCC-Cardinal match and closes the regular season Thursday, Feb. 7, with a league match at Worthington Kilbourne.
The Celtics are tied with Kilbourne for fourth in the league at 3-3, behind Bradley (6-0), Darby (6-0) and Westerville North (4-2) and ahead of Scioto (1-5), Westerville South (1-5) and Westerville Central (0-6).
Bradley and Darby face each other Thursday, Feb. 7, for the league championship.
Jerome will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 16 at Marysville. Also at the site are Briggs, Columbus West, Franklin Heights, Gahanna, Lancaster, Marysville, Northland, Westland and Whetstone.
Akutsu falls again to Davidson's Gusan
Scioto finished 10th (40) in the All-North Tournament, with senior Yoshi Akutsu placing second at heavyweight.
Akutsu is 30-3 this season, with two of his losses coming against Davidson's Travis Gusan. He lost to Gusan 3-1 in both the All-North Tournament and the Panther Invitational on Dec. 15 at Pickerington North.
Gusan and Akutsu, who were ranked first and second, respectively, in their weight class in the Division I area coaches poll released Jan. 25, could meet again in the sectional Feb. 16 at Westland.
The Irish and Davidson will be joined at the sectional by Central Crossing, Delaware, Grove City, Kilbourne, New Albany, St. Charles, UA and Westland.