Licking Heights High School wrestling coach Bo Ramsey believes his team will be well represented in the Division II district tournament this season.
The Hornets will play host to a sectional Saturday, Feb. 16, with the top four placers in each weight class advancing to district Feb. 22 and 23 at Heath.
Also competing in the 13-team sectional are top-seeded Whitehall, second-seeded Caledonia River Valley, eighth-seeded Jonathan Alder, ninth-seeded Big Walnut, 10th-seeded Mifflin, Bexley, Centennial, Columbus East, Columbus South, London, Utica and Watterson.
"I would be surprised if we didn't get at least five to district and there's always a surprise or two," Ramsey said. "So who knows? The number could grow depending on who wrestles well that day.
"In fact, I think we have five who can reach the finals. After that, I'm not so sure because Whitehall is supposed to have a ton of great kids and a solid lineup throughout."
Senior Michael Zaky (heavyweight) and sophomore Ty Yeager (126 pounds) were district qualifiers last season, as were 2012 graduates Tyler Price (113) and Kevin Yeager (170). Kevin Yeager advanced to state a year ago, marking the seventh consecutive season in which the Hornets have had at least one state qualifier. He went 1-2 at state.
Last season in its home sectional, Licking Heights scored 100.5 points to finish sixth behind champion Licking Valley (194.5). Ty Yeager won a sectional title and Zaky placed third.
Yeager, Zaky and junior A.J. Velasquez (220) have been battling injuries recently, but Ramsey expects all three to be ready for the sectional. After the Hornets lost to Jonathan Alder 46-21 on Feb. 7, Yeager was 19-3, Zaky was 20-12 and Velasquez was 16-5.
"I think all three of them can get to the (sectional) finals and that's important because of the district seeding," Ramsey said. "Our goal is to get as many of these kids to district and state as possible. We haven't thought much about possible opponents and the seeding meeting is (Wednesday, Feb. 13). You have to beat whoever they put in front of you at this stage."
Ramsey also believes freshmen Brandon Haist (113) and Anthony Haist (106) and junior Mike Hopewell (195) are capable of advancing to district. Before Feb. 7, Brandon Haist was 28-7, Anthony Haist was 19-10 and Hopewell was 10-6.
"Brandon Haist is nearing 30 wins and is getting better with each match," Ramsey said. "All but one of his losses were to really solid kids. Anthony Haist has a chance to reach the (sectional) finals, too, if he shows up and wrestles to his capability. He had a mid-season lull but seems to be out of it now. Mike Hopewell started at 220 and finally got down to 195 and he's been wrestling well."
Licking Heights finished fourth in the MSL-Cardinal dual tournament Feb. 2. The Hornets competed in just seven of the 14 weight classes but had five wrestlers reached the finals. Brandon Haist and Anthony Haist each won league titles and Zaky, Hopewell and freshman Taylor Woolard (120) placed second.
Boys basketball team closing in on MSL title
The boys basketball team will close the regular season with a pair of home games this week, as it faces Big Walnut on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and Fisher Catholic in its MSL-Cardinal Division finale Friday, Feb. 15.
Licking Heights is looking to repeat as league champion. The Hornets, who last year won their first league title since the 2002-03 season, were tied with Grandview for first at 11-1 entering their game against Millersport on Feb. 9.
Entering play Feb. 8, West Jefferson was third at 9-3, followed by Fisher Catholic (5-7), Berne Union (4-8), Harvest Prep (4-8), Liberty Union (3-9) and Millersport (1-11).
Grandview, which played West Jefferson on Feb. 9, finishes league play Friday, Feb. 15, at Harvest Prep.
Licking Heights, which defeated Fisher Catholic 88-34 on Jan. 12, was 15-4 overall and had won three consecutive games before facing Millersport. The Hornets defeated Liberty Union 85-30 on Jan. 26, West Jefferson 74-48 on Feb. 1 and Berne Union 77-55 on Feb. 5 before playing the Lakers.
Junior guard Babe Murphy had 32 points against West Jefferson, with junior forward Dante Burnette scoring 10 and senior guard John Righter scoring eight. Against Berne Union, Righter had 27 points, with Murphy scoring 21 and Burnette and junior forward Doug Benniefield both scoring eight.
Through 18 games, Murphy was averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.6 steals and Righter was averaging 16.7 points and 2.3 assists. Other contributors included junior guard DeAnthony Hosley (8.4 points, 2.4 assists), Burnette (6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds), Benniefield (5.8 points, 5.3 rebounds) and senior guard Ty Green (5.6 points, 2.9 steals).
The Division II district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 10. The tournament begins Feb. 23.
Girls basketball team preparing for DeSales
The girls basketball team will open the Division II district tournament Saturday, Feb. 16, at sixth-seeded DeSales. The winner will play host to 25th-seeded Lakewood in the second round Feb. 20.
Licking Heights, which is seeded 18th in the 26-team district, was 10-11 overall and 5-6 in the MSL-Cardinal before closing the regular season Feb. 8 against Fisher Catholic.
Last season, the Hornets lost to DeSales 47-15 in the first round. The Stallions went on to win a district championship.
"I can guarantee that we'll score more than 15 points this season," first-year coach Tay Tufts said, laughing. "We may not be world-beaters, but the program has grown a lot this season and these girls compete every time they take the floor."
DeSales, which was 14-6 before playing Hartley on Feb. 9, is led by senior point guard Miranda Johnson and sophomore guard Carly Codner-Pinto. Johnson is a four-year starter.
Licking Heights lost to West Jefferson 49-48 in a league game Feb. 6. The Hornets trailed 29-17 at halftime but outscored the Roughriders 31-20 in the second round. Junior guard Skyler Ortiz had 19 points to lead the Hornets, with junior point guard Dameras Whitlock scoring 17 and senior forward/guard Alyssa Stanley scoring eight.
Licking Heights defeated Columbus School for Girls 78-39 on Feb. 4, as Stanley and Whitlock both had 20 points and Ortiz scored 14.