When the South-Western City Schools levy failed in May, there weren't many programs that had more to lose than Central Crossing's wrestling program.

When the South-Western City Schools levy failed in May, there weren't many programs that had more to lose than Central Crossing's wrestling program.

The Comets were an area power in recent years. They spent most of last season ranked No. 1 in the Division I district coaches poll.

Times were good.

When the levy failed again in August, several key members of the wrestling team transferred to other schools and former coach Chance VanGundy took a job at Ready.

The few wrestlers that did return were left to recruit a new batch of athletes to a sport that held a reputation for being hardcore. Still, there was no promise of a season.

Kyle Jenkins heard the recruiting pitches. He was a wrestler at Pleasant View Middle School, but had given up on it in high school.

When the levy finally passed in November and the wrestling team said it needed people, Jenkins signed up.

"I figured this was my last chance to do a sport," said Jenkins, who competes at 130 pounds. "I really wanted to wrestle all through high school. I just didn't."

The lone member of last year's varsity team that did return was Isaac Redfern, a heavyweight. Most of the Comets were freshmen last season, and were years away from sniffing the varsity mat by last year's standards. That's not the case anymore.

But wrestling isn't for everybody.

"Lots of people, they show up for three days, and they can't handle it," Redfern said. "They get worn out."

When Central Crossing opened the season at the Panther Duals at Pickerington North, Jenkins found himself in the starting lineup.

Since its inception in 2003, the Panther Duals has become one of the marquee early-season dual meets in central Ohio. Generally the strongest teams are invited. Teams that were rebuilding usually have to find somewhere else to go. No one expected a team like Central Crossing to be rebuilding.

Jenkins was pinned five times that day and the Comets finished 12th (0-5) as North won (5-0). Afterward, Jenkins wondered what he was doing. The wrestler who had recruited him ended up quitting and Jenkins couldn't help but doubt himself.

"At the time I thought I was pretty much wasting my time coming back," Jenkins said. "(The Panther Duals) went really bad."

Coach Chas McCutcheon and his assistants told Jenkins to keep his head up. He was going up against wrestlers that had been wrestling non-stop since grade school.

"He was down on himself more than anything," McCutcheon said. "He was thinking I'm a senior and if this is how the whole season's going to go, I'm not sure that I want to have a season like this. We talked him into hanging it out and seeing how the next couple of weeks go. They went well for him."

Jenkins has learned a lot since then. Making weight for the first time in years was taxing. Jenkins tried to cut too much weight the day before the Panther Duals and in addition to lacking experience, he lacked energy.

The following Monday, he planned to change those things.

"I kind of cut my weight unhealthy," Jenkins said. "Now I've been watching my weight instead of losing it all in one day. I was really tired (at the Panther Duals) and I'm thinking I'm at a varsity tournament and I should be on the jayvee team still."

Things started to turn around over the next month. Facing Jenkins didn't mean an automatic six points for the other team. When Central Crossing lost to Dublin Coffman 65-6 and Upper Arlington 61-9 on Jan. 14 in what was the opening matches of the OCC-Central Division dual season, Jenkins was the lone Comets wrestler to notch two victories, including a pin of Coffman's Joe Schultz in 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

He's still going to take his lumps. Darby's Zach Jewell, a district qualifier in 2008, defeated Jenkins 16-1 on Jan. 21 as the Comets fell to Darby 62-18. Despite those losses in a sport where losses can be intensely personal, Jenkins is sticking with it.

"I wish I had been doing this all through high school," he said.