The Licking Heights High School wrestling team is hoping for better results in a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 15, at Watkins Memorial than it had in the LCL tournament Feb. 1 at home.
The Hornets finished fifth (167) in the LCL, behind Granville (309), Utica (305), Licking Valley (282) and Watkins Memorial (252) and ahead of Northridge (152), Newark Catholic (139), Lakewood (107), Johnstown (102) and Heath (67).
"It definitely was not our best day," coach Bo Ramsey said. "If we have a day like that at the sectional, it's not going to be a very happy offseason."
The highlight of the LCL tournament for the Hornets was a showdown between A.J. Velasquez and Mike Hopewell at 220 pounds. Hopewell was added as an extra in the weight class after he did not make weight at 195. Velasquez won 12-10 in sudden victory.
"Both of them had a bunch of weight to drop entering the season," Ramsey said. "Mike started at 230, and he's close to getting to 195 right now. A.J. started at 251. Mike beat the top seed from Licking Valley (Bo Redman, 11-5 in pool competition) to get to the final."
Hopewell threw Velasquez to his back with 58 seconds remaining to tie the score, and Velasquez wrestled from his back after that to force overtime. In the overtime, Velasquez got a takedown 20 seconds into the period to win.
"It was an exciting match for us and a real fun thing," Ramsey said. "It was the highlight of our day."
Joey Harrell (160) was runner-up, losing 9-2 in the final to Granville's Dain Steffeny.
Placing third were Anthony Haist (106), Brandon Haist (120) and Dereck Wilson (145). Garrett Sommerkamp (heavyweight) was fourth.
The Hornets will be without senior John Neary (170), junior Ty Yeager (132) and sophomore Adrien Hammonds (182) the rest of the season. Neary has a shoulder injury and Yeager, a two-time district qualifier, and Hammonds both have knee injuries.
"Ty had a setback a few weeks ago, so we knew he wasn't coming back this year," Ramsey said. "We thought we'd get John back. The good news is that (freshman) L.A. Kelly should be back for the sectional. He's missed the past few weeks."
Last season, in a Division II sectional at home, the Hornets were eighth (99.5) of 13 teams as Whitehall (265.5) won. The Haist brothers and Velasquez joined Yeager as district qualifiers.
The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to district Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby. Joining the Hornets at sectional will be Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dresden Tri-Valley, Dublin Scioto, Lancaster, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, St. Charles, Watkins Memorial and Zanesville.
"I expect three or four guys to make district, but if we have a good day, I could see us getting eight to district," Ramsey said.
Girls basketball team tightens up rotation
The girls basketball team cannot finish with a winning record without making a postseason run.
The Hornets were 9-12 overall and 7-10 in the LCL before closing the regular season Feb. 8 against Northridge.
Licking Heights is seeded 33rd of 47 teams in the Division I district tournament and plays at 13th-seeded Olentangy in the first round Feb. 17. Licking Heights will compete in Division I for the first time after going 0-8 in Division II.
The Hornets dropped three in a row after beating Watkins Memorial 49-48 on Jan. 30, falling to Licking Valley 44-41 on Feb. 3, to Newark Catholic 56-41 on Feb. 4 and to Johnstown 58-49 on Feb. 6.
Dameras Whitlock scored 15 points and Skyler Ortiz had 12 against Newark Catholic.
"I was happy with the results against Newark Catholic because we got accomplished what we set out to do, which was determine a set rotation ... for the district tournament," coach Tay Tufts said. "We outscored Newark Catholic 24-13 in the first and third quarters with our starters in the game.
"We subbed heavily in the second quarter and fell way behind, but we were looking at certain things as we try to tighten our rotation. We're not going to go 10-deep in the tournament. We're going to go with seven players for the most part."
Whitlock scored 17 against Licking Valley. She scored 22 points against Watkins Memorial and Ortiz, who has signed to play at NAIA Division II school Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind., added 10.
Against Johnstown, Whitlock had 23 points and Ortiz had 10.
Whitlock was leading the Hornets in scoring (14.7 points), assists (4.4) and steals (4.2) through 17 games. Ortiz, who missed three games with an injury, was averaging 12.1 points, 2.1 assists and 2.3 steals. Crystal Jackson was leading the team in rebounding (8.1).
Boys basketball team nearing postseason
The boys basketball team defeated Watkins Memorial 64-57 on Jan. 31, but then lost to Licking Valley 46-38 on Feb. 4 to have its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Hornets were 9-8 overall and 8-7 in the LCL before playing Johnstown on Feb. 7. They also played Groveport on Feb. 8 and close the regular season this week with their home finale Tuesday, Feb. 11, against Northridge before playing Thursday, Feb. 13, at Newark Catholic and Saturday, Feb. 15, at Big Walnut.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 9.
Babe Murphy scored 16 of his 25 points at the free-throw line and had 10 rebounds against Watkins Memorial. Dante Burnette had 17 points and nine rebounds and Blake Beaver scored 13 points.
Murphy and Martell Davis both scored 10 points against Licking Valley.
Through 16 games, Murphy led the team in scoring (20.3), rebounding (10.1) and assists (4.2). He also was averaging 2.6 steals. Burnette was averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, Douglas Benniefield was averaging 5.2 rebounds and Davis was averaging 3.1 assists and 2.7 steals.