Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling coach Mark Marinelli was proud of his team's performance in the postseason.
The Patriots placed in the top 10 in both the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby and the state tournament Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.
"We had some quality wrestlers and all of them got better as the year went on," Marinelli said. "We had some ups and downs during the regular season and we finished fifth in (the OCC-Central Division), but we were sixth in our district and ninth in the state and nobody thought we'd end up in the top 10 in the state at the end of the year. That's something everyone involved with our team should be proud of."
Liberty had three state qualifiers in senior Jake Ryan (145 pounds), junior Giuseppe Penzone (120) and sophomore Jonathan Furnas (106).
In his third state appearance, Ryan went 3-1 and placed second. The Ohio State signee beat Lakewood St. Edward's Edgar Bright 3-2 in overtime in a semifinal before losing to Ashland's Wyatt Music 8-0 in the final to finish the season 43-4.
Penzone went 4-2, including three pins, and placed fifth in his second state appearance to finish 36-9. Furnas went 3-2 and placed seventh in his first state appearance and finished 32-9.
The Patriots placed ninth (40 points) at state behind champion St. Edward (117) as 89 teams scored.
"We've had seven state placers, one state champion (2012 graduate Roy Daniels at 160 last season) and two state finalists in the six years I've coached here, and we feel good about that," Marinelli said.
Ryan went 4-0 at district, beating Upper Arlington's Vito DiBenedetto 18-3 in the final.
Furnas went 3-1 and placed second and Penzone went 4-1 and finished third, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Also competing at district were seniors Mitch Deruy (220, 1-2, 23-10), Andrew Eschleman (152, 1-2, 24-12) and Matt Snyder (138, 0-2, 22-16), juniors Kyle Arcaro (170, 0-2, 20-17) and Nick Thrasher (132, 0-2, 22-17), sophomore Zeke Aziz (160, 0-2, 17-15) and freshman Connor Thomas (113, 4-2, 26-9).
Thomas placed fifth and was a state alternate.
Liberty placed sixth (81) at district behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored.
Ryan went 4-0 to place first in the 10-team sectional Feb. 16 at Pickerington North, pinning all four of his opponents, as the Patriots finished fifth (163) behind champion Darby (212.5).
Liberty went 2-5 in the OCC-Central to tie Central Crossing and Dublin Coffman for fifth, behind Marysville (7-0), Thomas Worthington (6-1), Hilliard Davidson (5-2) and UA (5-2) and ahead of Westland (0-7).
The Patriots, who did not compete in the inaugural state team tournament, lose five seniors in Ryan, Deruy, Eschleman, Brandon Miller (heavyweight) and Josh Snider (113).
Among the expected returnees are nine with postseason experience in Arcaro, Aziz, Furnas, Penzone, Snyder, Thomas, Thrasher, sophomore Jake Hale (182, 17-15) and freshman Brandon McHugh (126, 20-11).
"We've got two state placers and seven district qualifiers coming back and we've got good middle school kids coming in, so I think we'll be good again next year," Marinelli said.
Braves expect to return state qualifier
Olentangy expects to return four of its five Division I district qualifiers, including its only state qualifier.
Sophomore Nate Hall (182) went 1-2 in his first state appearance after winning district and sectional titles. He went 4-0 at district and sectional, beating Thomas Worthington's Andrew Shackelford 3-1 in the final of both tournaments, and finished 42-10.
"The biggest highlight of our season was Nate making it to state and winning a match there," coach Dennis Lyberger said.
Also competing at district were senior Ahmed Hussein (160, 1-2, 15-17), junior Cody Pollitt (145, 4-2, 36-11), sophomore Kyler Slade (126, 1-2, 12-21) and freshman Chris Crumb (220, 3-2, 30-10).
Pollitt and Crumb both placed fifth and were state alternates.
Olentangy tied five other teams for 67th (3) at state and finished 13th (58) at district and sixth (134) in the 10-team sectional Feb. 16 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Hilliard Bradley (205).
In addition to Hall, Pollitt and Crumb won sectional titles.
Olentangy was seeded fifth in Region 5-A of the state team tournament and defeated fourth-seeded Ashland 63-15 in the first round Jan. 23 before losing to top-seeded Marysville 61-18 in the second round Jan. 30.
The Braves went 3-4 in the OCC-Capital to finish fifth, behind Mount Vernon (7-0), Delaware (6-1), Orange (5-2) and Watkins Memorial (4-3) and ahead of Big Walnut (2-5), New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
"We didn't have our full lineup together most of the year and it hurt us," Lyberger said. "But we improved throughout the year and wrestled our best at the end of the year."
Olentangy loses two seniors in Hussein and Austin Fajardo (132, 7-14) but expects to return 12 who competed in the postseason in Crumb, Hall, Pollitt, Slade, sophomores Jake Didion (152, 8-12), Isaiah Griffith (120, 0-9), Connor Slade (170, 14-16), Quinn Tucker (heavyweight, 4-12) and Blake Young (195, 15-14) and freshmen Andrew Fleischer (113, 8-19), Josh Nagel (106, 3-15) and Javier Razo (138, 0-6).
"We only had two seniors finish out the year with us, but they both worked hard in the room and will be missed," Lyberger said. "We had a lot of freshmen who did well and we're excited to see how our team will do as our young guys mature and improve."
Pioneers must replace large senior class
Orange is losing 11 seniors, including one of its two Division I state qualifiers and four of its seven district qualifiers.
Senior Artem Timchenko (120) and junior Lenn's Kamba (195) represented the Pioneers at state, with Timchenko going 3-1 and placing second in his third state appearance and Kamba going 0-2 in his first trip to state.
Timchenko lost to Solon's Brandon Thompson 3-1 in the final to finish 36-1 on the season, as Orange placed 25th (20.5). Kamba finished 28-10.
Timchenko placed seventh at state at 112 as a freshman at Orange and fifth at 112 as a sophomore at Massillon Perry.
"Taking two to state was a huge step for the program," coach Brian Nicola said. "Lenn's competed well and was in a position to win matches at state. He has another year to make it happen.
"Artem had a brilliant season. ... He set the bar high for the next group of wrestlers."
Timchenko won his first district title, going 4-0 and defeating Central Crossing's Josh Wimer 3-2 in the final. He also won a sectional title, going 3-0 and beating Thomas Worthington's Kasey Ackley 22-6 in the final.
Kamba went 3-2 and placed fourth at district, losing to Mount Vernon's Matthew Lybarger 2-1 in the third-place match, after winning a sectional title by going 3-0 and beating Reynoldsburg's Jordan Reed 7-3 in the final.
Also competing at district were seniors Ben Dodson (152, 0-2, 23-11), Ben Heilman (170, 1-2, 29-8) and Alec Hertz (heavyweight, 1-2, 24-10), junior Michael Hines (113, 1-2, 24-13) and sophomore Nick Lee (220, 0-2, 18-15).
The Pioneers finished 16th (49.5) at district and fourth (174) in the Watkins Memorial sectional.
Orange, which placed third (5-2) in the OCC-Capital, was seeded third in Region 5-A of the state team tournament and defeated sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman 57-9 in the first round Jan. 23. It then beat second-seeded Delaware 30-29 in the second round Jan. 30 before losing to Marysville 44-24 in a regional semifinal that same day.
Also included in the senior class were Chad Farmer (126, 23-17), Hayden Fath (138, 26-13), Mitchell Florence (182, 9-20), Brandon Mariotti (160, 10-19), Dane Rini (126/132, 12-5), Evan Saloom (152, 13-8) and Waylen Simpson (145, 3-7).
"Seniors Dane Rini and Evan Saloom are both three-year letterwinners who would have been impact guys in the postseason," Nicola said. "Both sustained season-ending injuries in the month leading up to sectional."
The Pioneers expect to return five who competed in the postseason in Hines, Kamba, Lee and sophomores Michael McQueeney (106, 16-13) and Anthony Spriggs (132, 20-13).
"We graduate a chunk of senior starters," Nicola said. "However, the anchors of Kamba, Hines and Lee will provide plenty of backbone for a deep squad.
"The team is very motivated to improve and build on what we are doing. Right now, the focus is on getting bigger and stronger, especially the younger guys."