When Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestling coach Kyle Bentley watched his team during the preseason, he didn't see anything "glaringly horrible."
He further explained that his team, which returns five Division I district qualifiers and three others who were sectional placers, might be "better than mediocre."
That might not be a bad place to begin the season, considering the Lions lost two of the best wrestlers to come through the program in 2013 graduates Kasee McDougle and Drew McDougle, as well as two other district qualifiers to graduation.
"We're definitely not bad, but we're definitely not where we should be yet," Bentley said. "We've got guys in the room with a lot of potential, but it's going to come down to doing what gets them better like eating right, staying after practice. If these guys can buckle down, doing things like that are going to make a difference."
Back after advancing to district last season are seniors Allen Bruce (182 pounds), David Dembroski (152), Nick Nader (heavyweight) and Jordan Sprunger (160) and sophomore Doland Martin (170). Junior Andy Chau (195) and sophomore Zach McDougle (132) were district alternates and sophomore Carl Turner (138) was sixth at sectional.
Other returnees include seniors Dakota Coates (220), Mike McMasters (126) and Sheldon Rentmeester (220) and sophomore Tanner Harding (145).
Senior Timmy Boyd (145) should be another contributor after not competing last season. Sophomore Dylan Ryther (120) and freshman Teyvian Hardgrow (106) also are in the lineup.
Junior Madeline Courvier (106) is the first girl Bentley has had on the team in his eight seasons.
Gahanna opened Dec. 7 by finishing sixth (106.5) in the 10-team Olentangy Liberty Classic behind champion Wadsworth (303). Nader (heavyweight) was second, Martin (170) placed third and Bruce (182) took fourth.
"We are young, but we should be pretty solid through the middle," Bentley said.
The Lions' 2013 senior class included Kasee McDougle (132), Drew McDougle (138), Zach Holloway (152) and Granyl Smith (220).
Kasee McDougle was a two-time state qualifier who finished third at state last season and went 53-3 overall, while Drew McDougle was a three-time state qualifier who went 1-2 at state last season. Holloway and Smith were district qualifiers last season.
Belli back to lead swimming program
The girls swimming and diving team is aiming for multiple state berths and a league championship.
Senior Morgan Belli, a three-time state qualifier who has signed with the University of Kentucky, is back to lead the way.
"Our girls are looking forward to the (OCC-Ohio Division) meet because we won it two years ago and last year we were second by nine points," said coach Erin Darrah, whose team scored 297.5 points as Pickerington North (306) won. "We have high expectations for some of the girls relays."
Belli was 16th in the 100-yard backstroke (58.5 seconds) and 12th in the 200 individual medley (2:07.91) a year ago at state.
Also back are seniors Kirstyn Thomas (breaststroke, sprint freestyle) and Annie Devaney (sprint free or middle distance), juniors Ashley Twigg (200 IM) and Hannah Zeltman (distance free) and sophomores Regan Nolan (distance free) and Victoria Nye (butterfly). Freshmen Ally Wharton (breast) and Dominique Vaccani (sprint free) are expected to be immediate contributors.
There are 12 boys in the program, including seniors Jon Chang (sprint free) and Kyle Clark (fly), junior Josh Vandervort (distance free) and sophomore Peter Reventlow (100 fly, 100 back).
Also looking to contribute are senior Patrick Mason (sprint free), juniors Andrew Lewis (distance free) and Owen Mair (sprint free) and freshmen Major Belli (200 IM, 100 breast) and Ryan Shaw (fly, sprint free). Major Belli is Morgan's brother.
The girls team finished 13th (105) in the 46-team Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 7 at Ohio State behind champion Upper Arlington (488), while the boys were 41st (4) of 44 teams behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (485).
Morgan Belli swam program records in the 50 free (11th, 24.69 seconds) and 100 breast (first, 1:05.19), and the 200 medley relay of Morgan Belli, Thomas, Wharton and Nolan was fifth in a program-record 1:52.45.
Bowling teams begin seasons
After coming up two spots shy of advancing to the state tournament a year ago, the girls bowling team has returned three of its top six players.
Seniors Erika Reed and Mickayla Moyer and junior Samantha Toale all saw action in the district tournament last season when Gahanna took fifth of 18 teams.
Also looking to contribute are seniors Erin Holt and Nichole Kirk, junior Katie Bugenstein, sophomore Anna Retherford and freshman Breanna White.
The girls opened by beating Big Walnut 1,643-1,366 on Dec. 3 and losing to Delaware 1,786-1,655 on Dec. 4.
The boys team lost to Big Walnut 1,989-1,952 and to Delaware 1,927-1,887.
Senior Shane Hull Jr., who is back with the program after last competing as a freshman, should be one of the boys team's top performers.
Back from last season are juniors Conner Hammonds and Alex Kasson and sophomore Jason McCann. Junior Brandon Pierce and freshmen Drew Alzner, Thomas Burke and Kaelan Celentano also are looking to contribute.
"We're hoping for the best for the girls team," coach Kelly Ferguson said. "I want to say that we'll be competitive like we were last year. We have a lot of freshmen on the boys team this year. Practice has gone well."
*Dec. 3 -- Big Walnut at Gahanna Lanes
Dec. 4 -- Delaware at Delaware Lanes
Dec. 7 -- Red & Blue Classic at HP Lanes
*Dec. 11 -- Worthington Christian at Gahanna Lanes
*Dec. 17 -- Thomas Worthington at Capri lanes
*Dec. 18 -- Olentangy Liberty at Gahanna Lanes
Dec. 21 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 6 -- Hilliard Darby at Ten Pin Alley
*Jan. 8 -- Westerville South at Gahanna Lanes
Jan. 11 -- Central District Preview at HP Lanes
*Jan. 13 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 15 -- Hilliard Davidson at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Olentangy at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 23 -- Westerville Central at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 24 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Capri lanes
Jan. 25 -- Jaguar Baker Marathon at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Jan. 28 -- Hilliard Bradley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Jan. 29 -- Olentangy Orange at Gahanna Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 13 -- Lancaster at Gahanna YMCA
Dec. 14 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 20 -- Pickerington North at Lancaster YMCA
Jan. 11 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 17 -- Columbus Academy at Gahanna YMCA
Jan. 18 -- Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Davidson at Hilliard YMCA
Jan. 21 -- at New Albany
Jan. 24 -- OCC-Ohio diving meet at New Albany
Jan. 25 -- OCC-Ohio swimming meet at New Albany
Dec. 7 -- Olentangy Liberty Classic
Dec. 14 -- Hamilton Township Classic
*Dec. 19 -- at Pickerington Central
Dec. 20 -- at Watkins Memorial
Dec. 21 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
Jan. 4 -- Hudson Duals
*Jan. 9 -- vs. Groveport and Rey-noldsburg
Jan. 10-11 -- Marion County Invitational at Marion County Fairgrounds
*Jan. 16 -- Lancaster and Newark at Pickerington North
Jan. 18 -- Lion Duals at home
Jan. 25 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
*Jan. 30 -- at Pickerington North
Feb. 1 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 6 -- vs. Grove City
Feb. 8 -- Jon Post Invitational at Westerville North