Instead of asking his athletes to cut a lot of weight, first-year Centennial High School wrestling coach Philip Farmer has them lifting twice as much as last season to improve their strength.
Farmer, who also is Centennial's strength and conditioning coach, said he is confident his wrestlers will fare well even though many of them have moved up a weight class or two.
The Stars opened Dec. 4 by going 1-1 in the semifinals of the new City League dual tournament, beating Northland 42-24 and losing to Columbus West 42-30. West advanced to the finals Jan. 9 at a site to be determined. The dual tournament is separate from the traditional City tournament held at the end of the season.
"Our biggest goal has been to get into better shape so we're doing a lot more weightlifting and conditioning than we did last season," said Farmer, who was assistant wrestling coach the previous two seasons. "Everyone on our team has gained at least five to 10 pounds of muscle and jumped up a weight class or two, but I'm confident they will do better as bigger, stronger wrestlers than they did in the past."
The Stars have two returning Division II district qualifiers in senior Shafeek Shafeek (120 pounds) and junior Kenny Lambert (heavyweight). Last season at district, Shafeek went 0-2 at 106 to finish 18-16 and Lambert went 0-2 at heavyweight to finish 18-18.
Three other starters have returned in senior Mike McCallister (138) and juniors Jordan Emerson (126) and Justin Polk (160).
Also in the lineup are seniors Marlin Holloway (heavyweight) and Yaseen Hyder (145), sophomores Devon Canford (132), Alex Martinez (195), Ahmed Osman (152) and Luis Ramirez (170) and freshmen Mekel Harrison (113) and Darius Echols (220).
Senior Robbie Edgington (182) suffered a broken hand during practice the week before the season. Farmer said he expects junior Marqez Hunter (132) to contribute as well.
"We have a lot of guys coming back, including two district qualifiers, and we have 29 guys on our team, which is about what we usually have," Farmer said.
Last season, the Stars placed seventh (82) in the City tournament behind champion Mifflin (192.5), 13th at sectional (30) behind champion Whitehall (265.5) and didn't score at district.
"Our goals are to win the City League tournament and to get some state qualifiers," Farmer said. "The City League is tough. Whetstone still is competitive and Marion-Franklin has a good team. Mifflin won our league tournament last year, so that's who we need to beat."
Girls basketball team rebounds from loss
The girls basketball team bounced back from an opening 53-39 loss to Upper Arlington on Nov. 25 to defeat Columbus International 78-13 in its City-North Division opener Dec. 3.
Nine Stars scored against International, including Alyssa Dean (23 points), DeAuja Thompson (15) and Akiya Brown (11).
Against UA, Dean had 14 points and Isabella Luaces scored 11.
"These were two totally different opponents," coach Darrin Green said. "We were missing four varsity and two j.v. players for our first game, but we did OK defensively. We had a big advantage in our second game, so I played a lot of young players after we took a big lead. Alyssa and Isabella did a good job with their leadership in these first two games."
The Stars' league game Dec. 6 at Northland was postponed to Dec. 9 because of bad weather.
Centennial plays a league game Friday, Dec. 13, at Brookhaven. The Stars split with the Bearcats last season, losing 53-44 and winning 52-44.
"Brookhaven doesn't look as strong as they were last year, but we need to play well anyway because it's an important game for us," Green said.
Boys basketball team looking for payback
The boys basketball team will have two chances at gaining some revenge when it plays host to Brookhaven on Thursday, Dec. 13, in a City-North game before playing at Dublin Coffman on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Last season, Centennial lost to Coffman 61-59 and split with Brookhaven, winning 62-60 at home and losing 65-50 on road.
The Stars were 1-1 before playing Northland in their league opener Dec. 9.
In the opener of the Grove City Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 29, Centennial lost to DeSales 73-30 in overtime despite Octavius Luke scoring a career-high 39 points and Gyai Gyamerah scoring 10.
In the consolation final of the four-team tournament, Centennial defeated Westland 54-49 as Luke scored 16 points, Joe Thomas had 13 and Jeremiah Fair-Harris had 10.