Despite having a losing record entering the postseason a year ago, Jordan Sprunger managed to become one of nine Gahanna Lincoln High School wrestlers to advance to the Division I district tournament.
What followed was a 0-2 performance that left him wanting as he began his senior season this winter.
"Last year I started off at 160 (pounds), then I cut to 152 and then I was bumped down, and the majority of the time I was at 145 (including at district)," Sprunger said. "It wasn't that great. It just kind of hit me that this is really going to be the last time I'm going to wrestle. That's been on my mind lately."
Sprunger's performance this season backs his assertion that he's feeling motivated.
After finishing 11-18 overall a year ago, Sprunger had won 13 matches before Jan. 16, when Gahanna lost to Lancaster 55-16 but beat Newark 61-12 in OCC-Ohio Division duals at Pickerington North to move to 3-2 in the league.
On Jan. 18, Gahanna went 3-2 and placed second in its home Lion Duals. The Lions beat Big Walnut 45-25, Westerville South 43-31 and Dublin Jerome 45-22, but lost to Hilliard Bradley 56-14 and Granville 46-20.
Seeded fifth in Region 5-A, Gahanna opened the Division I state team tournament Jan. 22 against fourth-seeded Teays Valley. The winner faced top-seeded Pickerington Central on Jan. 22, with the winner advancing to face Pickerington North (2), Lancaster (3), Watkins Memorial (6) or Hamilton Township (7) in a Region 5 semifinal Wednesday, Jan. 29, at a site to be determined.
Sprunger has settled in at 160 and into a leadership role for a team that entered this season with a void in the latter area after losing twins Kasee and Drew McDougle to graduation.
Kasee was a two-time state qualifier who finished third at state last year and Drew was a three-time state qualifier.
"(Sprunger's) been doing the little things in practice and he's coachable," coach Kyle Bentley said. "He's a good example for all the others."
Sprunger first came out for the sport in seventh grade, the same year his older brother, 2012 graduate Ethan Sprunger, was a freshman on the wrestling team.
Ethan was forced to quit wrestling after his sophomore year because of injuries, but that didn't keep Jordan from pursuing the sport.
"My first year was seventh grade and I wrestled three matches and was terrible," he said.
Over the past several months, Sprunger has concentrated on improving his footwork and takedowns, and he believes the work has begun to pay off.
After watching the success of the McDougle brothers the last few years, Sprunger has hopes of following in their footsteps in the postseason.
"I'm definitely hoping to get to district again and my ultimate goal is to go to state," he said. "I think it's achievable."
Boys basketball team bounces back
The boys basketball team did its best to not let its second loss this season linger.
After losing 62-58 at Pickerington Central on Jan. 10, the Lions won 58-52 the next day at Westerville Central and defeated Groveport 84-63 on Jan. 17 to begin the second round of OCC-Ohio play.
The Lions then beat host Kettering Fairmont 65-57 on Jan. 19 in the Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational to improve to 12-2 overall.
On Friday, Jan. 24, Gahanna travels to Newark with hopes of avenging a 55-53 loss Dec. 13.
The Lions are 6-2 in the league.
"I thought we let one get away (against Pickerington Central) and that's the disappointing part," coach Tony Staib said. "But it's definitely going to make us tougher for down the road. I think every coach (on our staff) is pleased with our effort."
Senior Javon Bess was averaging 20.8 points through 12 games but was held to 12 by Newark and to 15 by Pickerington Central.
Sophomore Javon Bess (12.6) and senior guard Manny Powell (9.7) followed Bess in scoring average through 12 games.
Newark is 13-2 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Ohio. In its first matchup against Gahanna, junior guard Jordan Dartis scored 19 points and junior forward Darius Shackleford added 16.
Staib expects to see a tougher Gahanna team against Newark after what it experienced against Pickerington Central, which got a 29-point performance from senior Connor Kern.
"Eight out of our 11 players are underclassmen, so we're definitely seeing progress," Staib said. "We're getting better and we're starting to jell as a team better. We'll take this and move forward."
Belli shines at Northeast Classic
One of the final warmups for the swimming and diving program before the OCC-Ohio diving meet is held Friday, Jan. 24, and the league's swimming finals are held Saturday, Jan. 25, was the Northeast Classic on Jan. 11 in Canton.
Senior Morgan Belli led the Lions by winning the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 4.07 seconds) and taking second in the 100 backstroke (57.21).
She also swam on the 200 medley relay that was 10th (1:52.5) and the 400 free relay that placed 12th (3:46.21).
Last season in the league meet, the girls placed second (297.5) behind Pickerington North (306) and the boys were fourth (186) behind champion Pickerington North (349).
On Jan. 17, the boys beat Columbus Academy 87-81 and the girls defeated Academy 99-71.
Gahanna then traveled to New Albany on Jan. 21.