Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 5, A.J. Antolik of the New Albany High School wrestling team has long since learned to live with his condition.
Antolik, a senior, also treats it with a sense of humor, especially when he has to give himself a shot of insulin before a match.
"I use it as a fear factor thing for me," he said. "I joke around where I'm pretending I'm using sports-enhancing drugs to freak out the other team. I have fun with it. I actually (fooled) one of my teammates a few years ago. I asked if he knew I was diabetic. He didn't."
Antolik's condition hasn't stopped him from being one of New Albany's stalwarts this season. In a year in which injuries have affected the Eagles almost nonstop and returning district qualifier Matthew Jones left the team within the first few weeks of competition, Antolik has been an anchor at 160 and 170 pounds.
He is one of four seniors on the team, with Josh Mormol (152), Luke Schroeder (160) and Harri Seward (138).
"A.J. is a scrappy kid, and wrestling helps keep him focused on his school work, too," coach Marc Cofer said. "He loves wrestling and maximizes his athletic ability. He's always out there ready to get after it, and he'll wrestle different weight classes for us. That's always a good thing."
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which patients have high levels of sugar in their blood. Left untreated, the condition can be fatal.
Antolik takes three shots per day -- in the morning, before dinner and before he goes to bed. While he has to watch his diet, he said his food choices are "not a huge factor in my life."
He generally carries a device with which he can prick a finger and learn his blood-sugar level. If his blood-sugar level is too low, Antolik ingests Gatorade or any fast-acting carbohydrates, such as bananas or potatoes, as well as sugar.
Cofer said that while having a diabetic wrestler can be a challenge, he trusts Antolik to watch his condition and notify coaches if an issue arises.
"We have to be aware and knowledgeable and know the precautions and symptoms," Cofer said. "It could be as simple as just sitting down for a while. If the kids are educated about it, they monitor or handle it themselves. It's more of a notification to us to give us an idea that they can feel or sense something coming on. If they're in tune with their bodies, it's a good deal. They just have to manage themselves."
The Eagles are 0-4 in the OCC-Capital Division. In league duals Jan. 9 at home, New Albany lost to Big Walnut 58-15 and Olentangy Orange 63-9. On Jan. 16, the Eagles lost to host Olentangy 67-10 and Mount Vernon 71-9.
Antolik earned one of New Albany's three wins against Big Walnut, pinning Michael Nash in 40 seconds. He did not wrestle at Olentangy.
Largely because it is not fielding wrestlers in three weight classes, Cofer withdrew New Albany from the Division I state team tournament that began Jan. 22. The Eagles have no wrestlers at 195, 220 or heavyweight.
"You want to go to those (tournaments) and represent your school and your sport with your best cards, so to speak," Cofer said. "But with the injuries, we didn't have the numbers and I didn't feel it was right to take our kids there whereas another team might fit in better with a full lineup."
Regardless of whether his team is shorthanded, Antolik is ready to lead the Eagles, no matter the measures he must take. Last summer, he tried Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling and was belly-to-belly suplexed in his first match, resulting in a slight back injury.
"My girlfriend tells me every day, 'You have to love pain or something to go through that,'" Antolik said. "I do. I love every second of it."
Shooting woes plaguing boys basketball team
A four-game losing streak in recent weeks left the boys basketball team looking for answers, but did little to derail its pursuit of a second consecutive OCC-Capital championship.
The Eagles started 3-0 before squandering a 21-point lead in a 64-62 loss to Westerville South on Dec. 28. New Albany rebounded to defeat league-foe Big Walnut 64-46 on Jan. 3 before its skid began. The Eagles lost to Upper Arlington (55-42 on Jan. 4), league-foe Mount Vernon (60-55 on Jan. 10), Olentangy Liberty (50-42 on Jan. 11) and league-foe Worthington Kilbourne (51-47 on Jan. 14).
New Albany went 1-1 last weekend, edging Orange 43-42 in a league game Jan. 17 before falling to Columbus East 44-39 in overtime Jan. 18.
"We have shot the ball terribly," coach Sam Davis said after the Kilbourne game. "We started this game (by winning the opening tip) and (had) a missed layup, then a missed putback, right off the bat. We've missed a lot of wide-open looks (and) a lot of wide-open 3s tonight. But give Worthington Kilbourne a lot of credit. They cut really hard. ...
"We have a young team. We have four seniors, but they don't have a ton of varsity experience. When it gets tough, we're not making great decisions. That's costing us games."
The Eagles had three shots to tie Kilbourne in a 20-second span in the final minute but came up short.
New Albany was 5-6 overall before playing Reynoldsburg on Jan. 21 and is 5-2 in the OCC-Capital. The Eagles' league schedule resumes Friday, Jan. 24, at home against Franklin Heights.
"It seems like we're so concerned about losing and so concerned about what happens if we don't win the league, so we're playing a little bit tight and some guys are doing more than they should be doing because of that," Davis said.
Cobb helps get girls team on track
Meche'la Cobb's 23 points lifted the girls basketball team to a 58-38 win over Orange in an OCC-Capital game Jan. 16, snapping a two-game league losing streak.
The Eagles, who had lost three of their previous four league games by a total of six points, improved to 9-6 overall before visiting Upper Arlington on Jan. 21. They are 5-4 in the OCC-Capital.
New Albany fell to Kilbourne 46-44 on Jan. 14 in the final seconds. The Wolves' Kayla Pack stole an inbounds pass near midcourt and hit a 12-foot jump shot as time expired.
The Eagles are four games behind OCC-Capital leader Mount Vernon (8-0) in the loss column. Mount Vernon leads Olentangy by a game, and those teams are scheduled to play back-to-back games Feb. 7 and 10 that could decide the league title.