During his first three seasons, Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling coach Mark Marinelli noticed his team was competitive with most of its stronger opponents, but ultimately the Patriots weren't strong enough to beat those squads in dual matches.

During his first three seasons, Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling coach Mark Marinelli noticed his team was competitive with most of its stronger opponents, but ultimately the Patriots weren't strong enough to beat those squads in dual matches.

Therefore, Marinelli felt like his program took a big step forward on Dec. 16 by beating Pickerington North 45-22.

North, which was ranked fifth in last week's Division I area coaches poll behind Marysville, Hilliard Davidson, Liberty and Gahanna, had beaten the Patriots 48-18 last season.

"That's the best team we've beaten since I've been here, and that's probably the best dual match win we've ever had," Marinelli said. "I think it shows that we're able to compete with any team in our area now."

The Patriots also appear to be a strong tournament team after they scored 221 points to win their 15-team Liberty Classic on Dec. 11 ahead of runner-up Lexington (200).

Craig Thomas (152 pounds) and Luke Fleming (heavyweight) each finished first for Liberty, while Anthony Michael (125), Ethan Snyder (145), Kenneth Hamre (171) and Joe Archer (189) placed second, and Jake Ryan (130), Jarrod Boone (135), Mitch Belle (140) and Nick Kaczkowski (160) finished third.

Thomas, who is 10-0, beat Cardington's Lucas Cummins 7-6 in the final. Cummins placed fourth at 145 in the Division III state tournament a year ago.

"That tournament was a meat-grinder," Marinelli said. "Some of the other teams had better individual finishers, but we had everyone pitch in and score for us."

The Patriots will compete in the Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament next week.

"This is one of the tougher tournaments in the state," Marinelli said. "The brackets are so deep that it's possible you can draw a state champion early. But we've got some good guys working out behind our varsity guys, and I think our guys will be ready for this level of competition."

•Olentangy got off to a strong start when it opened its season on Dec. 4 by scoring 357.5 points to win its 12-team Olentangy Invitational ahead of runner-up West Jefferson (236.5).

Finishing first for the Braves were Andrew Torti (103), Trevor Fiorucci (119), Caleb Hetterscheidt (160) and Bryan Young (heavyweight), while Ryan Lucas (125), Al Caserta (130), Anthony Fosco (135) and Alex Stinemetz (215) placed second, and Ryan Dean (140), Kyle Massey (145), Joey Gadd (171) and Dalton Crabtree (189) finished fourth.

"That was pretty exciting for us," Young said. "That was my first time winning a tournament, which was fun."

Coach Matt Hammons was even more pleased to see his squad finish third (164) in the 39-team North Canton Hoover Holiday Invitational last Friday and Saturday, behind Wadsworth (251) and Canonsburg (Pa.) Canon-McMillan (233.5). Huntington (W.Va.) finished fourth (136.5).

Fiorucci (119) went 5-0 to place first, beating Hoover's Sam Wakser 4-1 in the final.

Hetterscheidt (152) and Stinemetz (215) each went 4-1 to place second, Caserta (135) went 6-1 to finish third and Young (285) went 4-2 to place fifth.

"This is the first time our program has finished third in a major tournament and that's really exciting for us," Hammons said. "We finished behind the big-school state champs in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and we beat the big-school state champ from West Virginia. Trevor Fiorucci is wrestling the best he's ever wrestled, and that's saying a lot considering he finished second in the state in Division II last year."

The Braves will compete in the Medina Invitational on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Medina is a half-step tougher than this tournament, but we know we're right there after how competitive we were at North Canton," Hammons said. "Some weight classes are going to be tougher than our state tournament, but we want to expose our kids to this caliber of wrestling as many times as we can to get them used to it before state."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Liberty, Olentangy and Orange wrestling teams:

LIBERTY

Dec. 4 - Finished ninth (2-2) in 16-team Cincinnati Moeller Super Duals behind champion Wadsworth (4-0). Lost to Fairfield 33-28; lost to Nashville (Tenn.) Father Ryan 45-18; defeated Falmouth (Va.) Stafford 37-33; def. Louisville (Ky.) Trinity 37-29

Dec. 11 - Finished first (221) in 15-team Liberty Classic ahead of runner-up Lexington (200)

Dec. 16 - Def. Pickerington North 45-22

Wednesday-Dec. 30 - Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament

OLENTANGY

Dec. 4 - Finished first (357.5) in 12-team Olentangy Invitational ahead of runner-up West Jefferson (236.5)

Last Friday-last Saturday - Finished third (164) in 39-team North Canton Hoover Invitational behind Wadsworth (251) and Canonsburg (Pa.) Canon-McMillan (233.5)

Tuesday-Wednesday - Medina Invitational

ORANGE

Dec. 4 - Finished third (80) in eight-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational behind Vandalia-Butler (118) and Worthington Kilbourne (104)

Last Friday-last Saturday - Finished 27th (43) in 39-team North Canton Hoover Invitational behind champion Wadsworth (251). Josh Toprania (145 pounds) went 5-3 to place fifth.

Wednesday-Dec. 30 - Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament