The Watkins Memorial High School wrestling team is hoping to match or better its performance in the Division I sectional tournament last year.
The Warriors play host to an 11-team sectional Saturday, Feb. 15. They will be joined at the site by Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dresden Tri-Valley, Dublin Scioto, Lancaster, Licking Heights, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, St. Charles and Zanesville.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby.
Last season, the Warriors had five district qualifiers and scored 136 points in their home sectional to place fifth behind champion Hilliard Bradley (205).
"Although every year is a different team, you always want to improve on the year before," coach Mark Kurth said. "I'm not real good at projections, but we have four who I think should make it (to district) and four others who could make it. It's a matter of who comes out there and performs to their ability that day."
Senior Dylan Scott (132 pounds), junior Andrew Lieb (126) and sophomore Dean Marek (106) were district qualifiers last season, along with 2013 graduates Nick Lancia (152) and Nick Holter (138). Lancia was a state qualifier a year ago.
This season, Lieb has moved up to 132, Marek has moved up to 120 and Scott is competing at 138.
"Dylan Scott is a two-time district qualifier but has dealt with a knee injury for most of the year," Kurth said. "But I'm looking for him to come back strong. Andrew Lieb was a state alternate last season and has had a fantastic year and Marek has also been solid. (Marek) didn't compete in the LCL meet (Feb. 1) because of skin issues, but he should be ready by then."
Entering last week, Lieb had a 31-1 record on the season. Marek was 22-9 and Scott was 5-3.
Also expected to be in the sectional lineup are Alex Lieb (106), Brad Swearingen (113), Andrew Cornelius (126), Robert Speaks (145), Matt Kennedy (152), Adam Tompkins (160), Rob Chism (170), Jack May (195) and Simon Ponce (heavyweight). The Warriors likely will not fill the spots at 182 and 220.
Alex Lieb entered last week with a 35-4 record.
"Alex is wrestling very well right now, especially for a freshman," Kurth said. "It's a long and grueling season and it's easy to lose focus. There won't be many easy matches now, so these guys have to be ready physically and mentally. It's a grind, but if they want to move on, they've got to be focused and have a good week of practice going into it."
Watkins Memorial scored 252 points in the LCL meet to finish fourth, behind Granville (309), Utica (305) and Licking Valley (282) and ahead of host Licking Heights (167), Northridge (152), Newark Catholic (139), Lakewood (107), Johnstown (102) and Heath (67).
Andrew Lieb was the Warriors' lone league champion, beating Northridge's Josh Maynard 17-0 in the final at 132. Alex Lieb placed second at 106 and Speaks (152), Tompkins (170) and Ponce (heavyweight) each placed third.
Girls basketball team continues to improve
Girls basketball coach Jayme Gates continues to see improvement in her team even though its record might not reflect it.
Watkins Memorial, which was 4-16 overall and 3-13 in the LCL after losing to Utica 42-32 on Feb. 6, has been struggling to hold onto leads.
Through 19 games, the Warriors were 1-6 in games decided by four points or fewer. The win came against Lakewood (28-27 on Jan. 11) and the losses were to Licking Heights (49-48 on Jan. 30), Heath (41-37 on Jan. 16), Northridge (39-36 on Jan. 13), Granville (51-47 on Jan. 9), Utica (50-47 on Jan. 4) and Lakewood (29-26 on Nov. 30).
"We've had leads in a lot of games. We just haven't been able to hang on at the end," Gates said. "We're young and we just haven't been able to make enough plays down the stretch in many of the games, but we're definitely showing a lot of heart, competitiveness and improvement."
Against Licking Heights, the Warriors were ahead 48-45 until Dameras Whitlock made a 3-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds left. Whitlock then stole a pass, was fouled and made one of two free throws to give the Hornets a one-point lead. She then stole another pass, preventing the Warriors from getting off a final shot.
Vicki Smith paced the Warriors with 13 points and Lexi Denison scored 12 on four 3-pointers.
Against Utica, Denison scored 13 points and Smith added 11.
Watkins Memorial, which played Granville in an LCL game Feb. 8, closes the regular season Monday, Feb. 10, with a league game at Licking Valley in a makeup from Jan. 25.
The Warriors then will start preparing for the Division I district tournament. They are seeded 41st of 47 teams and will play at ninth-seeded Dublin Coffman in the first round Saturday, Feb. 15. The winner plays 37th-seeded Canal Winchester in the second round Feb. 19 at the home of the highest seed.
Watkins Memorial has not faced Coffman this season. The Shamrocks were 13-6 before Feb. 7.
Boys basketball team seeks winning season
The boys basketball team is looking to finish with a winning record.
Watkins Memorial defeated Northridge 63-52 in an LCL game Feb. 4 and was 8-9 overall and 6-8 in the league before facing Utica on Feb. 7.
Jared Clark scored a team-high 20 points, including three 3-pointers, against the Vikings. Hunter Holton had 12 points and Donovan Garrison scored 11.
Watkins Memorial will close the regular season this week with three league games. It plays host to Granville on Tuesday, Feb. 11, and Licking Valley on Wednesday, Feb. 12, before traveling to Heath on Friday, Feb. 14.
In the first round of league play, the Warriors beat Licking Valley (56-52 on Dec. 17) and Heath (70-46 on Jan. 17) but lost to Granville (62-54 on Jan. 10).
Watkins Memorial had three players score in double figures in a 64-57 loss to Licking Heights in a league game Jan. 31.
Holton had 20 points and Clark and Clay Gray scored 15 and 12, respectively.
Through 15 games, Gray was averaging a team-high 13.3 points. Clark was averaging 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists and Ben Shroyer was averaging 2.5 assists.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 9, with first-round games starting Feb. 21.
Postseason underway for swimming teams
The boys and girls swimming teams competed in the Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington.
The winner of each sectional swimming event automatically qualified for the district meet, which is being held Saturday, 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 did not compete at sectional.
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event, the top four finishers in boys diving and the top six finishers in girls diving advance to state Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded in each swimming event based on district times.