While the Hilliard Bradley High School wrestling team is expected to contend for the OCC-Cardinal Division title this season, fifth-year coach John Riggs doesn't want his athletes looking too far ahead.
"We certainly don't want to put the cart before the horse," he said. "You always want to move forward to the next level. We're certainly looking for the guys to compete very well this year. We're certainly pleased about the experience that many of our kids have heading into this year."
Bradley will open its season Saturday, Dec. 14, in the 10-team Firebird Duals at Kettering Fairmont. The Jaguars were scheduled to compete in the Olentangy Liberty Invitational on Dec. 7, but decided not to participate because of bad weather.
"We are champing at the bit to get started," Riggs said. "You're always hungry after seven weeks of practice. You're kind of anxious to get things rolling, so having (the opening meet) pushed back a week, you can imagine the guys are overly anxious to get out on the mat."
Bradley had a program-record 11 Division I district qualifiers last season, and the Jaguars have returned seven of those qualifiers, including their only state qualifier in senior Jake Stratton , who went 0-2 at state at 170 pounds to finish 33-14. Stratton has moved up to 182 this season.
The other returning district qualifiers are seniors Rob McGrath (120), Ryan McGrath (138) and Jacob Pugh (182), juniors C.J. Campbell (113) and Keegan Driscoll (160) and sophomore Will Stratton (132).
Last season, Rob McGrath finished 36-12 at 113, Ryan McGrath went 36-13 at 132, Campbell went 35-12 at 106, Driscoll went 16-12 at 145, Stratton finished 25-20 at 120 and Pugh went 14-21 at 160.
Others expected to be key contributors include senior Ryan Beveridge (heavyweight), juniors Bernie D'Ambrosi (145), Nick Hogenbirk (heavyweight) and Justin Lemmermen (126), sophomores Tyler Fletcher (220), Ryan Kraynak (195) and Patrick Yeo (170) and freshman Val D'Ambrosi (106).
Lemmermen finished 19-15 in the same weight class last season.
"We definitely have more kids than last season going into the season that have varsity level experience and at the district and state levels," Riggs said. "We are fortunate to have a number of kids who've competed at this level before."
Bradley won its first sectional championship a year ago, scoring 205 points to finish ahead of runner-up Pickerington Central (200.5) in the 10-team sectional at Watkins Memorial.
The Jaguars went 6-1 in their OCC-Cardinal duals to place second to Darby (7-0) and reached a regional semifinal in the inaugural state team tournament before losing to Darby 36-22.
Wildcats looking to fill holes in lineup
Davidson is looking to replace nine wrestlers who were lost to graduation, including three of its four Division I state qualifiers from a year ago in Travis Gusan (heavyweight), Nick Lawler (138) and Lee Wilson (132).
Gusan won the state title last season, defeating Canton GlenOak's Corey Siegfried 3-1 in the state final to finish the season with a 50-0 record while becoming the program's sixth state champion.
Wilson, who finished 40-6, and Lawler, who finished 37-12, both went 0-2 at state.
"We lost a lot from last year," 15th-year coach Dominic DiSabato said. "It's definitely a different attitude around here. We can't cry about it. We just have to say this is what we're dealt, let's go work hard and get the job done still."
Expected to lead the Wildcats is senior Bobby Smith, a three-time state qualifier who lost to Massillon Washington's Ivan McClay 3-1 in the state final at 126 last season to finish 44-4 and reached state for the third consecutive year.
Smith competed at Ready for two years before transferring to Davidson. He placed fifth at state at 103 in Division III as a freshman and went 1-2 at state at 126 in Division III as a sophomore.
"Last year was definitely a big letdown, but I know I have another year," said Smith, who is competing at 126 again this season. "This is my last year, so I'm definitely doing all that it takes to get it done this year."
The Wildcats return three other district qualifiers in senior Trent Gill and juniors Simon Erben and Amir Mansour.
Gill, who finished 35-9 a year ago, was a state alternate last season at 126 after going 4-2 and placing fifth at district. He is in the same weight class this season.
Erben, who went 0-2 at district at 113 to finish 16-21, is competing at 126 this season, and Mansour, who went 1-2 at district at 182 to finish 19-20, has moved up to 195 this season.
Other key returnees are seniors Jacob Green (182), Jordan Heyman (170), Garrett McIlvain (145) and Santiago Pablo-Barrera (138), junior Parker Dean (152) and sophomores Kyle Bessen (heavyweight), Ryan DeSanti (120), Cole Powers (160) and Cameron Russell (220).
Last season, the Wildcats won the 10-team sectional at Westland, scoring 224.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up Delaware (214.5). They placed second at district, seventh at state, third in the OCC-Central and lost to Pickerington Central 40-31 in the Region 6 final of the inaugural state team tournament.
Panthers return two state qualifiers
Darby has returned two Division I state qualifiers from a year ago in seniors Sean Black and Trevor Parker.
Black went 1-2 at 145 to finish 36-14 and Parker went 0-2 at 182 to finish 37-12. This season, Black has moved up to 182 and Parker is competing at 195.
The Panthers also return two district qualifiers from last season in juniors Zack Donatelli (152) and Chad Miller (heavyweight). Donatelli, who was unable to compete at district because of a concussion, has moved up to 170 this season, and Miller, who went 1-2 at district to finish 25-20, remains at heavyweight.
Others expected to be key contributors include senior Belal Museitif (145), juniors Alec Barker (220), Keegan Davidson (195), Zach Garrett (132), Ben Radcliff (152) and Robert Valenti (126), sophomore Kyle Colvin (152/160) and freshmen Drew Black (106), Jacob Huff (195/220), Christian Overfield (106/113), Austin Rayburn (120), Quentin Thatcher (138) and Lee Workman (138/145).
The Panthers lost five starters from last season to graduation, including two state qualifiers in Matt Walker, who placed fifth at state at 170 to finish 46-5, and Sam Valenti, who went 0-2 at state at 120 to finish 38-11.
"We lost quite a bit last year, but we have a huge, big junior class," fifth-year coach Brendan Moody said. "They're really steering the bus for the most part. We have good seniors."
Darby opened Dec. 4, defeating Worthington Kilbourne 56-19.
Parker (195, 1 minute, 29 seconds), Garrett (132, 3:42), Thatcher (138, 3:12), Rayburn (120, 5:15) and Robert Valenti (126, 1:55) all won by pin and Black won by technical fall (182, 22-5).
"We performed pretty well (Dec. 4)," Parker said. "We obviously have a lot to work on. It's the first match of the season. We just put a bunch of pressure on our younger guys to come in this year because they know the importance that they put into this team. It's not just the seniors."
The Panthers were scheduled to compete in the Marysville Duals on Dec. 7, but the tournament was canceled because of bad weather.
Last season, Darby won its first league title since 2008, going 7-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, and won the 10-team sectional at Pickerington North, scoring 212.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up Pickerington North (202).
The Panthers finished seventh at district, tied St. Charles for 44th at state and lost to Marysville 49-22 in the Region 5 final of the inaugural state team tournament.
"Westerville North and Bradley are co-favorites (in the OCC-Cardinal)," Moody said. "(The league is) going to be a blood bath."
Dec. 14 -- Firebird Duals at Kettering Fairmont
*Dec. 19 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Dec. 27-28 -- Greater Miami Valley Association Invitational at Wright State
*Jan. 9 -- Canal Winchester and Westerville Central at Westerville North
Jan. 11 -- Porter Memorial Tournament at home
*Jan. 16 -- vs. Dublin Jerome and Westerville South
Jan. 18 -- Lion Duals at Gahanna
Jan. 25 -- Cruiser Invitational at Groveport
*Jan. 30 -- vs. Westerville North
*Feb. 6 -- Darby at Hilliard Memorial Middle School
Dec. 4 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Dec. 12 -- vs. Delaware
*Dec. 19 -- vs. Westerville North
Dec. 21 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament
*Jan. 9 -- at Westerville South with Dublin Jerome
Jan. 11 -- Porter Memorial Tournament at Hilliard Bradley
*Jan. 16 -- at Canal Winchester with Westerville Central
Jan. 18 -- at Lexington with Wadsworth
Jan. 23 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Jan. 25 -- Grizzly Invitational at Wadsworth
*Jan. 30 -- at Dublin Scioto
*Feb. 6 -- Bradley at Hilliard Memorial Middle School
Dec. 7 -- Harry Steel Classic at London
Dec. 14 -- Hamilton Township Classic
Dec. 21 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
Dec. 29-30 -- Brecksville Holiday Tournament at Brecksville-Broadview Heights
*Jan. 9 -- Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington at Marysville
Jan. 11 -- Porter Memorial Tournament at Bradley
*Jan. 16 -- vs. Central Crossing and Westland
*Jan. 23 -- at Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 25 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
*Jan. 30 -- vs. Marysville
Feb. 1 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 6 -- at Dublin Coffman