With 10 returnees and the addition of a district qualifier, Westland High School wrestling coach Bret Busby is looking forward to seeing how his team fares against the top teams in central Ohio in his third season directing the program.
The Cougars opened Dec. 1 by finishing sixth (101 points) in the 13-team Franklin Heights Holiday Invitational behind champion Thomas Worthington (297). They then went 4-1 in their six-team Joe Stora Classic Duals on Dec. 8 to place second behind champion Grove City (5-0).
The Cougars defeated Franklin Heights 48-28, Walnut Ridge 58-21, Whetstone 55-19 and Briggs 75-6 before losing to Grove City 53-21 in the championship match.
"This is year three and they have bought into our philosophy," Busby said. "They understand that we want to get winning back at Westland and that's going to take hard work and being a good student-athlete. I have kids who never missed an open mat this summer and I have four seniors, but the biggest thing is I have 10 kids with varsity experience."
Westland begins its OCC-Central Division dual schedule Thursday, Dec. 20, at Thomas Worthington.
The Cougars return seniors Tommy Delgado (160 pounds, 17-14 record last season) and sophomore Cesar Aveja (220, 5-5), both of whom were district alternates last season by placing fifth in the Division I sectional at Central Crossing at 152 and 195, respectively. The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for district.
Another key returnee is senior Dylan Hernandez, who was 9-1 at 132 before competing in the Wolfpack Classic on Dec. 15 at Worthington Kilbourne.
"We're really excited about this season because we really want to get the program back to where it was," Hernandez said. "We look at all the state placers and state finishers on the wall (at school) and it really helps us improve and see the future and see where we want to go."
The other returnees are senior Jacob Ball (120) and Arnold Cruz (152), juniors Devyn Van Handel (145) and Romero White (138) and sophomores Steven Park (113), Blake Rece (106) and Greg Rummel (126).
The Cougars also have a key addition in junior Tommy Stone (170), a transfer from Madison Plains who was a Division III district qualifier at 160 last season and finished 28-20. He was 9-1 before the Wolfpack Classic.
"Tommy is the real deal," Busby said. "He's in the weight room for our class at school and he's one of the strongest kids."
Also on the team are senior Eric Byers (152) and sophomores Matt Carrico (182) and Tavon Drake (heavyweight).
Byers was on the team as a sophomore but opted not to compete last season.
"We have a very solid team," Busby said. "They're very good kids and they're very good kids in the classroom. They all want to work hard, they all want to win and everybody loves the new uniforms. We went to all black and I'm very happy. We're pushing these kids hard and they're really responsive."
Among the key losses from last year's squad were 2012 graduate Alec Morstadt, who went 23-10 and was a district alternate at 160, and Dorrion Newton, who was the team's only district qualifier.
Newton, who went 15-8 at heavyweight last year, is expected to miss his junior season because of a knee injury. He placed second at sectional last season but was not able to compete at district after injuring his right knee in the third period of the sectional championship match against Grove City's Chandler Evanichko.
Newton was forced to default against Evanichko with the match tied at 6.
Last season, Westland went 1-6 in the OCC-Central to tie Central Crossing and Thomas for sixth, behind Hilliard Davidson (7-0), Dublin Coffman (6-1), Hilliard Darby (5-2), Kilbourne (4-3) and Upper Arlington (3-4).
As part of OCC realignment, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
Last season, Marysville won the OCC-Cardinal championship and won sectional and district titles.
Westland finished last (56) in the 10-team sectional at Central Crossing a year ago behind champion Coffman (196.5).
Gymnastics team preparing for opener
The gymnastics team opens Friday, Dec. 21, against Washington Court House and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Trics Gymnastics Academy in Washington Court House.
Westland has three returnees in juniors Brenna Nutini and Taylor Wegman and sophomore Aleeah Ruthers. Nutini and Wegman are in their third season with the program.
Also on the team are sophomore Moene' Mickens and freshmen Kylun Campbell, Colleen Hotelling, Donna Mayhew, Katlyn Mullett and Ogo Obiagwu.
"We're still trying to get all the routines together," 13th-year coach Lavon Maynard said. "They're a young squad. We have a lot of freshmen. Most of them are cheerleaders with a little bit of tumbling. They're learning the basics."
The Cougars begin their OCC-Central dual schedule Jan. 3 at Kilbourne. Also in the league are Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Davidson and Liberty.
Last season in the OCC-Central, Westland went 0-5 in the league duals and finished fifth in the league meet with a 92.75, behind Kilbourne (134.75), Liberty (126.95), Delaware (116.075) and Davidson (111.325) and ahead of Scioto (83.95).
In the overall OCC-Central standings, the Cougars tied Scioto (1-4) for fifth with six points, behind Kilbourne (24, 5-0), Liberty (20, 4-1), Davidson (14, 3-2) and Delaware (14, 2-3).
Kilbourne has won the past three league championships.
Last season in the district meet, Westland finished last (89.45) of 24 teams, as Grove City (140.075), Coffman (139.375) and Thomas Worthington (137.345) qualified for the state meet.