Centennial High School wrestling coach Mark Shaffer said it feels like he is starting his team from scratch after losing eight starters from last season to graduation, including Division II state-qualifier Stanley Hendricks.
Shaffer has experience in this area, as he restarted the Stars' program in 2000 after it had been disbanded because of a lack of interest. He is in his 23rd season leading the program, having also coached the Stars from 1981-90.
"We have only one starter back, so we're rebuilding this team completely," Shaffer said. "I went through a similar experience back in 2000. The only difference is we have more kids (36) in our program than we started with back then, and we do have some kids who wrestled last year, so we're a little more experienced."
The Stars competed in a quad-match Dec. 5, beating Northland 60-17 and losing to Columbus West 61-18 and Mifflin 47-36.
Three days later, Centennial went 2-3 and finished seventh in Columbus South's Bulldog Duals. The Stars defeated Linden-McKinley 60-24 and Africentric 54-23 but lost to Brookhaven 44-30, Ashland 51-30 and South 54-30.
Centennial had won the Bulldog Duals the past four seasons.
"We're going to take some lumps this season as our young guys learn how to compete at this level," Shaffer said. "We're teaching them what to do first, and next year they're going to learn how to do it better. If they stay together three or four years, we will get this program back up to where it was before we lost last year's seniors."
Sophomore Ken Lambert (heavyweight) is the lone returning starter.
Senior John Neutzling (120 pounds) has returned to the team after a two-year absence.
Seniors Robert Fall (152) and Josh McFann (138), juniors Robbie Edgington (195), Mike McCallister (126) and Dan Reyaz (220) and sophomores Jordan Emerson (113) and Shafeek Shafeek (106) also are back after serving as backups last season.
Senior Ronald Phillips had knee surgery in the fall and junior Peter Fallon broke an arm during practice in early December, but Shaffer is hoping both will be medically cleared to compete late in the season.
"Ken Lambert won only one match last year, but he's our most improved wrestler and he's out to a good start this season," Shaffer said. "We're very inexperienced overall, but our kids are learning and getting better."
Last season, Centennial finished second (198.5) in the City League tournament, behind Marion-Franklin (227) and ahead of West (195) and Whetstone (135), South (97), Brookhaven (95), Briggs (86), Northland (72), Walnut Ridge (63.5), Columbus East (53), Mifflin (41), Africentric (39.5), Independence (31), Linden (30), Beechcroft (22) and Eastmoor Academy (12).
The Stars then finished fourth (127.5) in the 13-team sectional at Big Walnut behind champion Sparta Highland (172.5) before finishing 22nd (31) in the district at Uhrichsville Claymont behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 45 teams scored.
Centennial scored two points in the state tournament at Ohio State to tie 10 other teams for 73rd behind champion St. Paris Graham Local (183.5) as 87 teams scored. Hendricks was the Stars' only state qualifier, going 1-2 at 132.
Shaffer said the Stars are looking forward to playing host to Whetstone in their annual "Golden Grappler" match on Jan. 30 and playing host to the City League tournament on Feb. 9.
"Our big goal is to get better for the Golden Grappler because we always pack the gym for that match and it's very important to us," Shaffer said. "Right now, I'd say that Whetstone and West are the favorites to win the City tournament."
Boys, girls bowling teams combined
Because of low numbers, the boys and girls bowling teams have been combined into one squad this season, with the returnees for the girls team competing on the boys team.
The starters are seniors John Fowler, Carmine Frye and Amy Matthews and juniors Matt Ballard, Tyler Bastian and Justin Taylor.
Fowler is the team captain.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Victoria Evans, Chelsea Huffman, Timothy Montgomery and Robert Turner and freshmen Jordan Brantley and Russell Lewis Chambers.
"The number of boys we had was low and we didn't have enough girls to have a full team, so we decided to combine them into one boys team this year," fourth-year coach Brian Hamilton said. "We're hoping we can get a girls team started next year, but we're going to do the best we can as one team this year."
Centennial beat Haugland Learning Center 1,789-1,433 on Dec. 10 and rolled a 1,731 on Dec. 11 to defeat Northland (1,635) and Beechcroft (1,571). The Stars were 3-1 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division before competing against Ready on Dec. 19.
Last season, the boys team finished 13-4 overall and went 10-4 in the COHSBC-Central to tie Northland for fourth, behind St. Charles (14-0), Brookhaven (12-2) and DeSales (11-3).
Centennial then finished 20th (2,172) in the 28-team sectional at Eastern Lanes behind champion Westerville South (2,831), as the top nine teams and top nine individuals not on a qualifying team qualified for district at HP Lanes. The Stars did not have any district qualifiers.
"Our goal is to win the (COHSBC-Central) championship," Hamilton sad. "I'd like to see them all bowl 150 or better, and we'd like to have some of our kids advance as individuals in the (postseason)."