In 2006-07 during his first season as Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestling coach, Kyle Bentley had his team travel to a festival in Pennsylvania to face what was at that time the nation's top-ranked team.

In 2006-07 during his first season as Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestling coach, Kyle Bentley had his team travel to a festival in Pennsylvania to face what was at that time the nation's top-ranked team.

Although the Lions lost that match 70-0 to Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy, the thing that sticks out most about the event to Bentley is that his team learned abundantly from the experience.

With a current lineup filled with veterans who enjoyed significant experience last season, Gahanna is hoping to gain a new edge when it competes Wednesday and Dec. 30 at the Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament - albeit with some better results.

The 50th annual event will feature 45 teams including defending Division I state champion Wadsworth, with DeSales, Hilliard Davidson, Marysville, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange as others slated to compete.

There are expected to be 18 returning state champions and 88 returning state placers at the tournament, which is expected to hold its championship, consolation and fifth-place matches from 6:30-10 p.m. Dec. 30.

"We've got (eight) seniors this year, and if they're going to be competitive at state, we've got to get them to tough tournaments," Bentley said. "I wrestled (at the Brecksville tournament) when I was in high school, and it's probably one of the top high school tournaments in the country."

Gahanna opened with a fourth-place finish (236 points) at the Firebird Wrestling Classic on Dec. 11 at Kettering Fairmont. Wapakoneta, which is another team in the Brecksville tournament field, won the tournament (288).

Kasee McDougle (135) went 5-0 and Justin Strohschein (152) was 4-0 as both won championships. Josiah Dembroski (140) finished second, Drew McDougle (130) and Nick Brown (189) were third and Zach Holloway (145), Kyle Baker (171) and Donald Payne (215) all were fourth. Jack Prior (103) and Doryan Arnold (119) both placed fifth.

After losing just one key wrestler from last season, Strohschein believes the Lions' performance was a strong start to the season that creates a hunger for better finishes over the coming weeks.

"I felt like we did really well, but we have some things to improve on," Strohschein said. "We won't be satisfied until we're the best. We feel really strong about our team after losing only one guy from our lineup from last year (in 2010 graduate Tim Tuaquoi). We feel pretty confident. Practices are pretty intense to begin with. We have a lot of goals, like being district champions and really doing the best we can at state."

The biggest positive from the Lions' first two events this season, including last Saturday when they competed at the Pickerington North tournament, might be the mat experience they're gaining.

Most of Gahanna's competitors wrestled at least five matches at Kettering Fairmont.

"Kasee McDougle went undefeated at 135 with falls or (technical falls) in every match and Justin Strohschein went 4-0 with three pins and a major decision," Bentley said. "So far the lineup's going pretty well. We have a freshman at 112 and we don't have a guy on varsity at heavyweight right now, so we're a little young in a couple spots. Will Hunsucker, who will battle anywhere between 130 and 145, has had a knee injury, so when he comes back that will give us some more depth."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Gahanna Lincoln wrestling team:

Dec. 11 - Finished fourth (236) at 10-team Firebird Wrestling Classic at Kettering Fairmont behind champion Wapakoneta (288)

Last Saturday - Finished third (156) in 13-team Pickerington North Invitational behind Bedford Chanel (282.5) and Teays Valley (187.5). Drew McDougle (130) and Kasee McDougle (135) were first, Nick Brown (189) finished second, Justin Strohschein (152) was third and Connor Noel (160) placed fourth.

Wednesday-Dec. 30 - At Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament

*Jan. 6 - At Lancaster with Reynoldsburg in OCC-Ohio Division openers

*OCC-Ohio match