The Watkins Memorial High School wrestling team will play host to a Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 16.
The Warriors had six district qualifiers last season and are hoping to at least match that total this year. The top four finishers in each weight class at sectional advance to the district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
"Well, you hope that the four who returned after making it last season will make it again," coach Mark Kurth said. "We have two others who finished fifth and were district alternates and then maybe up to five more could have a chance if they wrestle well. So I'd say six to eight would be a good, reasonable number to advance."
Qualifying for district last season were seniors Chris Bankes (132 pounds), Noah Holter (126) and Nick Lancia (138), junior Andrew Lieb (120) and 2012 graduates Joey Cameron (152) and Stephen Robb (145).
This season, Bankes is at 126, Holter is at 138 and Lancia is at 152. Lieb is in the same weight class.
Last season, Watkins Memorial placed fifth (135 points) in its home sectional behind champion Lancaster (225) and finished 21st (23) at district behind champion Marysville (174). The Warriors did not have any state qualifiers a year ago.
Before competing against Delaware in an OCC-Capital Division match Feb. 7, Lancia was 37-3, Bankes was 39-6, Lieb was 34-6 and Holter was 34-7.
"They've all had good seasons and Bankes is wrestling really well since getting down to 126," Kurth said. "We're expecting big things from them individually and that should help our goal of finishing in the top two in our sectional and the top 10 in the district. We'll have to wrestle well to do that because we've got some good teams in our sectional."
Watkins Memorial is seeded 14th of 40 teams in the district. Also competing in its 10-team sectional are sixth-seeded Thomas Worthington, seventh-seeded Pickerington Central, 10th-seeded Olentangy Orange, 11th-seeded Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy (16th), Dublin Coffman (25th), Reynoldsburg (26th), Canal Winchester (29th) and Zanesville (39th).
Junior Dylan Scott (132) was a district qualifier as a freshman but did not advance out of sectional last season. According to Kurth, Scott and junior Taylor Evener (heavyweight) are questionable for the sectional because of injuries.
Junior Josh Lyday (195), who was 16-9 before Feb. 7, recently returned from an injury. He was a district alternate last season, as was Evener.
Others whom Kurth expects to contend for a district berth include senior Damion George (220), junior Adam Tompkins (160), sophomore Elliott Holter (113) and freshman Dean Marek (106). Before Feb. 7, George was 36-8, Marek was 26-17, Tompkins was 24-22 and Holter was 17-22.
"Damion George has wrestled really well this season," Kurth said. "Dean Marek has been competitive all year and Adam Tompkins and Elliott Holter both have improved greatly and are getting better every week. Josh Lyday, if he's healthy, has a good chance. As for Scott and Evener, I hope they can be ready and healthy, but we're just not sure at this point."
Girls basketball team preparing for tourney
The girls basketball team is seeded 41st of 43 teams in the Division I district tournament and has a first-round bye.
Watkins Memorial, which was 6-14 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Capital before playing New Albany on Feb. 8, will play at second-seeded Gahanna or at 40th-seeded Groveport in the second round Feb. 20. The Warriors have not played either team this season.
Watkins Memorial will close the regular season Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Mount Vernon. The game had been scheduled for Jan. 25 but was postponed because of bad weather. The Warriors lost to the Yellow Jackets 49-38 on Dec. 14.
"The makeup game will keep practices from getting stale since there is a long layoff (before the tournament opener)," coach Jayme Gates said. "It should be a competitive game and maybe we can steal a win and head into the tournament with some confidence."
The Warriors won consecutive games, beating Franklin Heights 46-32 on Feb. 1 and Columbus South 48-14 on Feb. 2, before losing to Olentangy 80-29 on Feb. 5.
Against Franklin Heights, guard Lou Nickel had 12 points, guard Kiki Welker scored eight and guards Ivy Durbin and Maddie Berry and post player Vicki Smith each scored six. Durbin had a team-high 12 points against Olentangy.
"It was great to get wins, even if it was against Franklin Heights and South, but we'll take them," Gates said. "Unfortunately, we had to play a real good Olentangy team at their place on their senior night, so that confidence boost we gained was lost.
"But the girls have a lot of pride and they're still playing hard and trying to get better. Lou Nickel is still playing fantastic. She's our rock, our leader. She keeps everyone positive. Vicki Smith has done an amazing job grabbing rebounds lately and she leaves it all out on the floor. She's a workhorse for us."
Boys basketball team closing regular season
The boys basketball team will close the regular season with a pair of home games this week.
Watkins Memorial, which was 5-12 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Capital before playing New Albany on Feb. 8, faces Lakewood on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and has a league contest against Orange on Friday, Feb. 15.
The Warriors, who lost to Orange 64-35 on Jan. 11, then will prepare for the Division I district tournament. The tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 10, with the first-round games being played Feb. 23.
Watkins Memorial had lost three in a row before playing New Albany, falling to Big Walnut 65-61 on Jan. 29, Franklin Heights 61-49 on Feb. 1 and Olentangy 68-49 on Feb. 5. All three were league games.
Against Franklin Heights, post players Hunter Holton and Jared Clark had 12 and nine points, respectively, and guard Thomas O'Sickey scored nine. Guard Aarmanni Garnett had 16 points and Clark scored 13 against Olentangy.
Swimmers looking to advance to district
Members of the boys and girls swimming teams competed in the Division I sectional meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
The winner of each sectional swimming event advance to the district meet Saturday, Feb. 16, at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded today in each swimming event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until the district meet.
The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21-23 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 three boys divers and top four girls divers at district advance to state.