The Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestling team hasn't had an ideal season to this point, but will start with a clean slate Saturday in the OCC-Ohio Division tournament at Grove City.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestling team hasn't had an ideal season to this point, but will start with a clean slate Saturday in the OCC-Ohio Division tournament at Grove City.

For the first time since the 1995-96 season, the title will be decided with a tournament. It will be a dual format.

"The main point of this year is going to be to end on a positive note that we can build on for next year," assistant coach Jon Rotonda said. "I wouldn't say any of us are satisfied or happy with our results to this point, but I don't think it's too late to salvage the season as far as finding small positive victories."

The Lions have a young team and have taken their lumps with a lineup filled with new starters. Gahanna has had some strong outings, but the inconsistency in practice has hurt.

"We probably need to pick it up in practice a little bit and start working harder," freshman Brandon Shirey (125 pounds) said. "There are some weeks where we wrestle tough and hard, and there are other weeks where we just don't practice hard."

The fact that the league tournament will be run in a dual format could benefit Gahanna. Although the Lions are inexperienced, they do not have to forfeit any weight classes and have a balanced lineup. Gahanna is 4-8 in duals, but most of those losses have been by 15 or fewer points.

Coach Kyle Bentley said he likes the decision to use a tournament this season, especially considering that seven duals during the season would limit his ability to schedule other tournaments. He said he would have preferred a standard tournament, however, instead of the dual format.

There will be two pools of four teams competing in round-robins. Afterward, the team with the best record in pool A will wrestle the second-place team in pool B, and the pool B winner will wrestle the second-place team in pool a. The third-place team in pool A will wrestle the fourth-place team in pool B, and vice versa.

After that round, each team will wrestle the team of equal place from the other pool. The final standings will be based on the overall records.

Bentley said he'd like to see his team finish in the top four, but he knows that won't be easy given the quality of the OCC-Ohio. Reynoldsburg is among the favorites entering the league tournament. The Raiders, who have won the Division I district title the past three seasons, are led by Tommy Sasfy (140) and Jeremy Cook (171). Sasfy was sixth in the state at 135 last season and Cook was seventh at 171.

Pickerington North should be a contender as well. It was second in the area coaches poll last week, four spots higher than Reynoldsburg. North has just one returning state qualifier in Alec Marisco (125), but is more balanced than Reynoldsburg. North won a tournament at Wapakoneta on Jan. 17 with 267 points, beating out area power Central Crossing (251).

Pickerington Central also has a solid team, which was bolstered by the addition of Wuan Tatum (189) and Willie Tatum (171), transfers from Marion-Franklin. Willie Tatum was a state-qualifier at 171 last season.

Lancaster, ninth in the area coaches poll last week, is led by Kyle Dilley (171), who was fourth in the state at 160 last season and is committed to wrestle at Ohio University next year. Dilley was ranked first in his weight class in the area coaches poll, and Logan Strope (103) was third in his.

Bentley also said he always expects Groveport to be tough because of its coaching staff, led by Pat Niemann. Seth Nelson (215) was second in the area coaches poll last week.

Groveport beat Gahanna 40-30 at the Lion Duals last Saturday as Gahanna went 0-4 and finished ninth.

"They're always going to do well because of those coaches," Bentley said. "They're into it. They love the sport."

Newark and Grove City round out the league. Grove City has three returning district qualifiers and Newark has one. Neither team had any state qualifiers last season.