Senior heavyweight Anthoney Verhovec was nearly at a loss for words to describe the biggest week in the history of the Northridge High School wrestling team.
The Vikings won their first league title in the MBC Duals on Feb. 2 at Fredericktown. They then defeated visiting Hartley 44-16 on Feb. 6 to win the Region 22 championship of the inaugural state team tournament. The eight-team Division III state duals were held Feb. 9 at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
"I don't think that there are words to describe it," said Verhovec, who won by forfeit against Hartley. "It really brings a lot of tempo in the (practice) room. We win the (Licking) County (Tournament on Dec. 22 at Licking Heights), we win the MBC and we win the state regional final. It's truly amazing, and it's great to be able to do it with this group of guys."
Coach Eric Potts said the success was no surprise. It has been years in the making.
"(Winning the regional title) is huge for the program," he said. "It's an exclamation point from what was started years ago with the youth program. It's taken eight or nine years of work to get here.
"We had a great group of parents who started this program, and this was the result of their work."
The Vikings took a 9-0 lead on Hartley as sophomore Jake Adkins (106 pounds) won by forfeit and freshman Michael Holly (113) won 11-5 over Anthony Poliseno.
"Michael Holly only weighs 97 pounds, but he went out and wrestled a great match at 113," Potts said. "He was down 4-0 and I'm sure (the Hartley coaches) thought that they were going to win that one, but Michael came up big."
The Hawks cut their deficit to 15-13 entering the match at 152, but Northridge won six of the final seven matches. Senior Zach Rudy won an 11-3 major decision over Trey Hampton at 182 to clinch the regional title.
"Before the second period, coach (Potts) told me that we needed at least a major decision. I just came out and wrestled harder," Rudy said. "This is as big as it gets for the school. I think that it's amazing that we have made it so far and accomplished this much."
Other winners included seniors Drew Mullen (138) and Thomas Williams (152) and juniors Alex Arnold (126), Parker Fox (170) and Rob Mickey (160).
The Vikings were seeded sixth in the state duals behind top-seeded Delta. They opened against third-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek.
In the MBC Duals, Northridge easily outdistanced Loud-onville 395-235 for the championship. The Redbirds had won six of the previous seven MBC titles. Centerburg was third (231), followed by Utica (184), Fredericktown (138), Johns-town-Monroe (132), Danville (131) and East Knox (65).
"They won the county in the youth program, in middle school and now this year," Potts said of his team. "I think they thought they were going to win the MBC a couple of years ago and didn't. They also came up short last year. They had been knocking on the door so many times and they knew it was time. They wanted to make sure they won it this year."
Winning titles for the Vikings were Adkins (106), Mickey (160), Mullen (138) and Williams (152). Arnold (126), Mooney (220), senior Shane Mulligan (132), Rudy (182), junior Wade Stischok (145) and Verhovec (heavyweight) were runners-up. Holly (113), Fox (170) and junior Jon Barber (195) placed third.
"It's huge (to finally win the MBC) because for the last two years, we were so close and yet so far away," Williams said. "But that was just the beginning. ... We still want to win sectional and district titles and get our (school) name on the (leader) board at state. We have a lot left to do."
The Vikings compete in a 15-team Division III sectional tournament Friday, Feb. 15, and Saturday, Feb. 16, at Cardington. The top four individuals in each weight class advance to district Feb. 22 and 23 at Duncan Falls Philo.
Last season in a sectional at Cardington, Northridge finished sixth (117) of 15 teams, behind champion Newark Catholic (158), and had six competitors advance to district at Heath. Williams (138) was first, Verhovec (heavyweight) placed second, Adkins (106) and Mullen (132) both finished third and Barber (195) and junior Jacob Burke (170) each placed fourth. Burke is out with a foot injury this season.
Boys basketball team preps for Johnstown
The boys basketball team was 7-12 overall and 4-8 in the MBC before playing Utica on Feb. 8.
On Friday, Feb. 15, the Vikings play at home against Johnstown. The Vikings lost to the Johnnies 58-54 in overtime Jan. 11 as senior guard Hayden Warner scored 22 points, sophomore guard Chad Campbell had 12 and senior guard Sean Higgins had 11.
Junior guard Matt Grindle led with 17 points as Northridge defeated Loudonville 62-54 on Feb. 5. Higgins and sophomore guard Gavin Shank added eight points apiece.
Grindle led with 20 points as the Vikings lost to Fredericktown 56-54 on Feb. 1. Campbell had 11 points and Warner had 10.
Girls basketball team opens with Centerburg
The girls basketball team was 2-18 overall before playing Heath on Feb. 7 and 1-12 in the MBC before playing Johnstown on Feb. 9.
The Vikings are seeded 19th in the Division III district tournament and open with a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 16, at sixth-seeded Centerburg.
Northridge was swept by the Trojans in MBC play. Centerburg won 43-21 on Dec. 8 and 52-43 on Jan. 19.
The winner plays 15th-seeded Marion Pleasant on Feb. 21 in a second-round game at the home of the higher seed.
Last season, Northridge played in its first district semifinal since 2002, but lost to Centerburg 68-28.
The Vikings lost to Utica 81-40 on Feb. 2 in an MBC game and lost to non-league Heath 56-35 on Feb. 7.
Swimming teams compete at sectional
The swimming and diving teams competed Feb. 9 in a Division II sectional meet at Columbus Academy.
The winner of each event qualified for the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until district.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
The top boys diver and top three girls divers at district advance to state.