The wrestling success that Aaron Hardy, Dez Hauber, Gage Hysell and Vince Pickett shared last season at Williamsport Westfall wasn't enough to stop them from returning to the community where they developed into top-level athletes.

The wrestling success that Aaron Hardy, Dez Hauber, Gage Hysell and Vince Pickett shared last season at Williamsport Westfall wasn't enough to stop them from returning to the community where they developed into top-level athletes.

For them, there's no place like Central Crossing High School.

"We grew up together," said Hysell, a Division III district qualifier last season at 152 pounds. "We've been wrestling since we were 4 or 5 years old. We've all been through the same stuff."

Their spectacular two-year run at Central Crossing from 2007-09 ended with multiple levy failures that wiped out extracurricular activities. The activities were restored when a levy passed after the 2009-10 school year had started.

In 2008-09, the Comets were the top-ranked team in the final Division I coaches poll. They were fifth at the Division I state duals and won the Pickerington Central sectional before placing fifth at district. Two Comets made it to state, and eight district qualifiers were expected to return for the 2009-10 season.

But after the levy failures, the program fell apart. Issac Redfern, a 2010 graduate, was the only one of the district qualifiers who came back. Central Crossing attempted to defend its OCC-Central Division championship with a makeshift lineup of first- and second-year wrestlers. The league dual results were a disaster as the Comets lost every match by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, the former Comets were learning the difference between a large-enrollment school like Central Crossing and a small one like Westfall. At a school where nearly everyone had been together since kindergarten, the former Comets were outsiders.

"We slowly started to drift away from our friends," Hauber said. "They knew each other their whole lives and we were like the new guys."

The social aspect wasn't ideal, and neither were the practice conditions. Westfall doesn't have a wrestling room, and after school the four had to drive to a rented gym for practice. It added another five minutes onto what already was a 45-minute drive to school.

Still, Westfall had a good season. After having just one district qualifier in 2009 and not scoring any points at the district tournament, Westfall scored 49 points to finish 13th behind West Jefferson (174.5). Pickett ended up making it to state, where he placed eighth at 145.

Upon his return to Central Crossing, Pickett has heard from some who have told him that the level of competition is going to be much tougher in Division I. But he hasn't noticed it yet.

"It's about the same," Pickett said. "That's what I hate when people say, 'Oh, you're going to go back to D-I and get whooped up on.' It's not like that."

After the year at Westfall, the four made plans to return to Central Crossing. According to Hardy, it was the right decision.

"So far, it's been a lot better," said Hardy, a district qualifier at 135 last season.

When coach Jamie Ramirez was hired in June to take over for Chas McCutcheon, he knew he would have the athletes to improve on what was a dismal season for the Comets. He was coming from a Franklin Heights team that shared in the same kind of misery.

"I was struggling in my own right with (Franklin Heights') program because of the numbers," Ramirez said. "It was kind of odd to see (Central Crossing) that low, but basically everybody left. They were dealing with a lot of first- and second-year wrestlers. It's not fair to compare against that."

Ramirez has the Comets on track this season. They scored 361 points to place fourth behind champion Beloit West Branch (590) at the Mount Vernon Wazie Classic on Dec. 4. Hauber (140), Hysell (152) and Pickett (160) won titles.

Despite the respectable placement, Central Crossing hasn't been recognized by area coaches. When the first Division I area coaches poll came out Dec. 13, Central Crossing was not ranked in the top 10.

"I think we're flying under the radar because I think we have some big scorers, but to be a complete team, we're going to have to develop some of our younger kids," Ramirez said. "The (Wazie Classic was) the first tournament. We still have a long season to go."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Central Crossing and Grove City wrestling teams:

CENTRAL CROSSING

Dec. 4 - Finished fourth (361) at 12-team Mount Vernon Wazie Classic. Dez Hauber (140), Gage Hysell (152) and Vince Pickett (160) won titles.

Last Friday-last Saturday - Finished 21st (59) behind champion Wadsworth (251) at North Canton Holiday Tournament

Wednesday-Dec. 30 - At Ready Winter Classic

*Jan. 6 - At Thomas Worthington with Worthington Kilbourne

*OCC-Central match

GROVE CITY

Dec. 4 - Finished first (250) in 10-team Franklin Heights Holiday Tournament ahead of runner-up Tiffin Columbian (191). Caleb Dick (189), Jose Hughes (171) and Zach Reynard (heavyweight) won titles.

Dec. 9 - Def. Worthington Kilbourne. The match was tied at 33 and the Greyhounds won on criteria.

Dec. 11 - Finished sixth (2-3) at Central Ohio Duals at Marysville behind champion Marysville (5-0). The Greyhounds def. Akron Hoban 58-19 and Dublin Scioto 40-23 and lost to Hilliard Davidson 38-35, Harrison 52-18 and Hilliard Darby 53-27.

Last Saturday - Finished seventh (121) at Pickerington North Panther Invitational behind champion Bedford Chanel (282.5)

*Jan. 6 - At Lancaster with Reynoldsburg

*OCC-Ohio match