Pickerington High School Central wrestling coach Jason Allen would be happy with a runner-up tournament finish and three individual champions at any point of the season.
That performance was especially welcome in the 16-team Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament on Jan. 5 at Dublin Scioto, five days before the Tigers re-enter the OCC-Ohio Division portion of their schedule. Senior Ason Sunkle won the 170-pound championship, classmate A.J. Bondurant placed first at 160 and freshman JoJo Terry took the 120 title, as the Tigers scored 215 points to place second behind Lewistown Indian Lake (228).
Also, Devin Johnson (106) and Ryan McElwee (113) placed second and Aaron Yarger (152) took third.
Central also had a good showing in the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Invitational Tournament held Dec. 28 and 29 at Wright State University, scoring 92.5 points to place 12th of 52 teams behind champion St. Paris Graham (295).
"You look at this tournament and the one at Wright State, it shows our guys that they can compete with some top-line kids and can beat those kids sometimes, too," Allen said. "Considering that we have some important duals coming up against schools in our league, I want them feeling good about themselves. We're nowhere near where we want to be for the postseason, but we're in pretty good shape for this point in the season."
In their respective championship matches in the Kevin Cleveland tournament, Sunkle won by forfeit over London's Owen Shoemaker, Bondurant defeated Indian Lake's L.J. Henderson 10-6 and Terry beat Toledo St. John's Andrew Rush 6-1.
Junior Dillon McDowell was third at 182.
"I really liked how some of our guys bounced back from losses, like Dillon," Allen said. "They didn't give up after taking an 'L' in their bracket."
In the Greater Miami Valley tournament, Sunkle placed second, losing to Miamisburg's Kyle Schmidt 5-4 in the final, and Bondurant was fourth.
Allen expects better news in the coming weeks. He projected that senior Tyler Hogue (120), a Division I district qualifier a year ago at 113, will make his season debut when Central resumes its OCC-Ohio schedule against Lancaster and Newark on Thursday, Jan. 10, at Grove City.
Junior Jordan Pieczynski (145) also is expected to compete in the two league duals after sitting out the Kevin Cleveland tournament with what Allen called "a minor injury."
The Tigers won their league opener, 43-30 against Gahanna on Dec. 20.
"You're never completely satisfied, but there's a lot to be happy about right now," Allen said.
"They're starting to learn a few more technical aspects and how to answer in certain situations. Their conditioning is up tremendously from the start of the season. They believe in themselves and their teammates and they always come into a match thinking they can win."
Panthers don't mind having busy January
North competes in three tournaments and five OCC-Ohio matches this month after participating in three tournaments and one league match in December, but coach Brad Harris believes this is a "less strenuous" month than December for several reasons.
"For one, it's a matter of getting in shape in December, especially after football season for some guys," Harris said.
"Kids are trying to make weight for the first time. Solon and Medina were two-day tournaments for us. December is just a tough month and we always see a lot of competition."
The Solon Comet Classic was held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and the Medina Invitational Tournament was Dec. 28 and 29. The Panthers finished 23rd (58) at Medina behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (286).
Senior Payton Gutierrez finished fifth at 106 at Medina, and junior Jared Ferguson was seventh at 126.
North is 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio entering matches against host Groveport and Reynoldsburg on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The Panthers won their league opener, 52-18 against Grove City on Dec. 20, and placed fourth (149.5) in the 11-team Pioneer Invitational on Jan. 5 at Olentangy Orange behind champion Thomas Worthington (241.5).
Harris expects his team to be without sophomore Cody Notestine (145) for the remainder of the season because of a shoulder injury.
North travels to the James Horning Memorial Invitational on Jan. 19 at Mason and participates in Groveport's Cruiser Invitational on Jan. 26.
The Panthers' have league matches Jan. 17 against host Newark and Lancaster and Jan. 31 at Gahanna.