Geno Rollo of the Pickerington High School North wrestling team admits he didn't spend the entire offseason specifically training to improve on his state tournament finish of a year ago.
But Rollo hopes his work for football, in which he was honorable mention all-district as an offensive lineman and is a Division I recruit, pays off.
"I worked as hard as I could with football to get in better shape, but at the same time that helps me out with wrestling," said Rollo, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior heavyweight who was third in the Division I district tournament last year and went 1-2 at state. "I hope I'm not that far away from being better than I was at state last year. It's all about working a little bit harder, thinking more to get through the match.
"I want to place at state. That's my goal -- that and do just a little better than I did last year."
Eleventh-year coach Brad Harris hopes a five-member senior class keeps North atop the OCC-Ohio Division and gives the Panthers another strong postseason showing. Nine North wrestlers advanced to district last year, and 2013 graduate Payton Gutierrez was eighth at 106 at state.
North, which was 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio last year and shared the league title with Pickerington Central, begins its season Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Solon Comet Classic.
Seniors are expected to start in four of the top six weight classes, with juniors dominating the middle weights.
"We're an older team than we were the last few years for sure," Harris said. "We only have one freshman (Tyler Reynolds at 106), but we have some sophomores filling some voids. I feel really confident with a lot of younger guys we have stepping into the lineup."
North's senior class consists of George Dial (170), Jared Ferguson (132/138), Rollo, Wyatt Starkey (182) and Ryan Ward (160). Juniors on varsity are Andrew Hassel (113/120), Matt Myers (132/138), Tyler McCafferty (152), Cody Notestine (145/152) and Nick Notestine (145/152).
Also on the roster are sophomores Kye Betzel (126), Juan Cervantes (195), Bradley Collins (126), Connor Corbin (113/120) and Jaylyn Falls (220).
Dial, who was second at sectional and fifth at district last year -- one spot shy of qualifying for state -- gave up his senior season of football to concentrate on wrestling and track. He hasn't decided which sport he will pursue in college.
"Last year, I lost at district and that was very tough for me. Ever since then, I have dedicated myself to pushing myself as hard as I possibly c an," said Dial, a four-year varsity wrestler.
"Track and wrestling go hand-in-hand because they both involve running. If I can keep a strong focus on that, it'll carry over to my other sport."
North begins its OCC-Ohio schedule Dec. 19 at Grove City. Harris expects a Feb. 6 dual at Central to decide the league championship.
"(Central) should be the team to beat," he said. "We'll be right up there as well. Lancaster is tough, too. You can't forget about them, but Central is our big match."