Walking into Ohio State's St. John Arena, Anthoney Verhovec felt at home.
Last year, the senior heavyweight for the Northridge High School wrestling team believed he was a little out of place less than a half mile down Lane Avenue in Value City Arena. He had qualified for his first state tournament and was overwhelmed by the experience, going 0-2.
But it was different this time, as he joined his teammates for the inaugural Division III state team tournament Feb. 9.
Verhovec pinned Amanda-Clear-creek's Seth Hollett in 4 minutes, 48 seconds to send the Vikings to a state semifinal with a 35-33 win.
Northridge lost to Massillon Tuslaw 51-15 in a semifinal. Delta beat Tuslaw 52-17 in the final.
"Coming in here wasn't like it was last year," Verhovec said. "I wasn't ready before, but now I'm here with the rest of my team. We hope to be back up here again in a few weeks (for the state tournament for individuals). Our goal is to bring 10 guys back here."
The individual postseason began for the Vikings with a sectional Feb. 15 and 16 at Cardington. The top four in each weight class advanced to district Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Duncan Falls Philo.
The top four in each weight class at district will advance to state Feb. 28-March 2 at Value City Arena.
Last season in the district at Heath, the Vikings finished seventh (65.5) behind champion Nelsonville-York (129.5) as 48 teams scored. Senior Thomas Williams won a championship at 138 pounds, with Verhovec placing third at heavyweight and sophomore Jake Adkins fourth at 106.
Also competing at district last year for the Vikings were senior Andrew Mullen (132), junior Jacob Burke (170) and junior Jon Barber (220).
Coach Eric Potts said the experience of the state duals was invaluable.
"I couldn't be more proud of where we are as a team right now and how much this can help our kids," he said. "I think we have a mature group and they will be motivated by this. A lot of it comes down the mental aspect (of the sport) this time of year."
The Vikings trailed Amanda-Clearcreek 17-4 before three consecutive pins turned the tide. Senior Shane Mulligan pinned Devan Boyer in 3:38 at 132, Mullen won in 3:47 over Jared Dilley at 138 and junior Wade Stischok pinned Austin Johnson in 5:23 at 145. Both Mullen and Stischok trailed 5-2 before turning the tables with pins.
"When we got those three pins, everything changed," Mulligan said. "You could feel the energy in the air."
Northridge led 29-17 after junior Rob Mickey defeated Caleb Moore 2-1 at 160. Other winners included Adkins (106) and Williams (152).
Against Tuslaw, the Vikings trailed 30-0 before Williams pinned Steven Stoner in 46 seconds at 152. Senior Zach Rudy defeated Mike Eberhardt 8-4 at 182 and Verhovec won by forfeit at heavyweight.
"We can't dwell on this (loss to Tuslaw)," Potts said. "We have to focus on sectional and district."
Swim teams send three individuals to district
The swimming and diving teams competed Feb. 15 in a Division II district meet at Ohio State.
The top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to the state meet Wednesday Feb. 20, through Friday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide. The top boys diver and top three girls divers at district advanced to state.
On Feb. 9 in a sectional at Columbus Academy, the girls team finished 12th (18) behind champion Granville (339) as 24 teams scored and the boys finished 14th (20) behind champion Granville (279) as 21 teams scored.
Freshman Josie Bunstine advanced in two events with record-setting performances. She was seeded eighth at district in the 100-yard butterfly after tying her program record of 1:05.49. Bunstine was seeded ninth in the 100 breaststroke after breaking her program record in 1:13.81.
Junior Riley Love was seeded 25th in the 100 backstroke in a personal-record 1:10.95 and also competed in the 200 individual medley as the 14th seed (2:35.13).
Junior Brandon Eckstein was seeded 26th in the boys 200 IM (personal-record 2:29.98).
The boys 400 freestyle relay of sophomore Mat Scott, sophomore Jasen Dean, sophomore Chris Lindsay and Eckstein was seeded 26th (4:09.37) and the 200 medley relay with the same four was seeded 28th (2:05.66).
Boys basketball team preps for tournament
The boys basketball team was 7-14 overall and 4-9 in the MBC before playing Johnstown-Monroe on Feb. 15.
The Vikings were seeded 17th of 24 teams in the Division III district tournament and open Saturday, Feb. 23, at 10th-seeded West Jefferson in a first-round game. The Roughriders were 15-5 overall before playing Liberty Union on Feb. 15. The teams have not played this season.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Worthington Christian on Feb. 27 at Worthington Christian Middle School.
On Feb. 8, the Vikings lost to Utica 61-41 in an MBC game. Junior guard Matt Grindle scored 18 points, sophomore guard Chad Campbell had 11 and sophomore guard Gavin Shank had 10.
Chad Campbell led with 17 points in a 92-80 loss to Wellington on Feb. 12. Senior guard Sean Higgins and Grindle both had 14 points and senior guard Kaleb Crump and Shank had 10 apiece.
Girls basketball team plays final MBC game
The girls basketball team finished the regular season 2-20 overall and 1-13 in the MBC after losing to Johnstown 65-37 on Feb. 9.
It was the final MBC game for the Vikings, who join the Licking County League in August.
Junior guard Sara Pribonic led Northridge with 10 points, senior forward Lydia George had nine and sophomore guard Mikaela Pankuch added six.
The Vikings were seeded 19th in the Division III district tournament and opened with a first-round game Feb. 16 at sixth-seeded Centerburg.
The winner plays 15th-seeded Marion Pleasant on Thursday, Feb. 21, in a second-round game at the home of the higher seed. The Spartans are 8-14 overall and had a first-round bye. They have not played Northridge this season.
The winner advances to play seventh-seeded Madison Plains, ninth-seeded West Jefferson or 10th-seeded Heath in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Granville.