The members of the New Albany High School wrestling team will be asked to go the proverbial extra mile this weekend.
The New Albany Invitational will be held Saturday, Jan. 21, between the program’s middle-school tournament Friday, Jan. 20, and youth tournament Sunday, Jan. 22. Varsity wrestlers help out at the middle school and youth events.
“You have to give back,” senior Tommy Chamberlain said. “You have to show the younger kids you’re here. It gets a lot of people out, and it gets us around the mat (when we’re) not wrestling.”
Chamberlain, who competes at 145 pounds, said the extra work won’t be a distraction, however.
“No, not really,” he said. “If anything, I think it just gets us more into it.”
The New Albany Invitational will be the team’s first tournament since it finished second to the host Johnnies in the Johnstown Duals on Dec. 30.
In the interim, the Eagles dropped four OCC-Capital Division duals to fall to 0-5 in the league. They resume the OCC-Capital schedule Jan. 26 at home against Olentangy Orange. Hilliard Bradley is 4-0 to lead the league while Mount Vernon is second at 3-1.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they’re getting healthy at the right time. Chamberlain continues to improve following offseason knee surgery. Two other top wrestlers, seniors Ryan Cao (152) and Mac Ferguson (182), have missed time with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively.
The New Albany Invitational, which is expected to include 16 teams, will begin with pool wrestling. The top four scoring teams then advance to the championship semifinal duals. A year ago, the Eagles finished third by defeating Springfield Kenton Ridge 43-32 in the consolation final after losing 46-33 to Middleburg Heights Midpark in a semifinal. Olmsted Falls topped Midpark 52-17 in the championship dual.
“I think the way we do it makes it exciting,” assistant coach John Galbreath said. “The kids get a lot of matches in, and if you make it to the championship rounds, you know you’ve earned it.”
The event used to be held earlier in the season but was moved to better accommodate the school district’s academic calendar. It likely will move again next season because the Ohio High School Athletic Association will be changing the way the state team championship is contested, with a series of duals taking place over a three-week period beginning in mid-to-late January to determine winners in all three divisions rather than using individual scoring from the state tournament.
“We like where it falls now,” Galbreath said of the home tournament. “It’s the end of our exams, so the kids don’t have a lot of other things to worry about. It’s worked out nice.”
As it is now, the New Albany Invitational signals the beginning of a stretch run that leads to the Division I sectional tournaments Feb. 18.
“It’s moving fast,” Chamberlain said of the season. “There’s about a month left before it could be over. It’s time to get to work.”