At the start of the season, Jacob Ball of the Westland High School wrestling team set his sights on reaching the Division I state tournament.
The senior appeared to be on track to meet that goal in the late stages of the regular season, as he was 23-4 before competing in the All-North Tournament Feb. 2 at Dublin Jerome.
It was in that event that his postseason hopes were dashed.
Ball, who had not advanced past sectional competition in his first three seasons with the Cougars, was competing against Grove City's Cornelius Marshall in a semifinal at 120 pounds when he tore a ligament in his right elbow while being taken to the mat in the second period. Ball continued the match and went on to win 7-0. He then lost to Jerome's Liam Dunlea 5-0 in the final.
Ball later learned that his injury required surgery and that his season was over.
"We were aiming for states," he said.
"What a great senior year: 25-5," coach Bret Busby said. "He wrestled in the finals (of the All-North Tournament), but the pain was too much and he was runner-up. (The team trainers) wrapped it up and they did a nice job, and we let him decide and he wanted to go out there and wrestle."
Ball was in attendance to support his teammates when they competed in a 10-team sectional tournament Feb. 16 at home, where the Cougars scored 75 points and finished eighth, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (224.5).
"It was difficult, but I kept cheering my teammates on," he said.
Devyn Van Handel (138) and Tommy Stone (170) qualified for the district tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced.
Van Handel went 3-1 and finished third at sectional and Stone went 2-2 and placed fourth.
The top four finishers in each weight class at district advanced to the state tournament Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State. Westland hasn't had a state qualifier since 2007, when Chris Brogan went 0-2 at 215.
Also competing at sectional were Blake Rece (106, sixth, 1-3), Steven Park (113, 0-2), Brian Foster (120, sixth, 2-3), Greg Rummel (126, 1-2), Romero White (132, 0-2), Dylan Hernandez (145, 0-2), Eric Byers (152, 0-2), Tommy Delgado (160, fifth, 3-2), Matt Carrico (182, 0-2), Fernando Lagunas (190, fifth, 2-2), Cameron Maxwell (220, 0-2) and Tevon Drake (heavyweight, 0-2).
Boys basketball team starts postseason
The boys basketball team opened the Division I district tournament at home against 27th-seeded Briggs on Feb. 23.
Seeded 11th of 42 teams, Westland was 16-6 overall entering the postseason. The first-round winner plays 15th-seeded Thomas Worthington or 24th-seeded Westerville Central in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the home of the higher seed.
The Cougars have not played Central this season but they split two OCC-Central Division games against Thomas, losing 64-53 on Dec. 14 on the road and winning 62-57 on Jan. 25 at home. In the latter matchup with the Cardinals, guard Kersey Long had 19 points and guard KyJuan Grace scored 15.
The second-round winner will play third-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 23rd-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 29th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal March 6 at Marysville. The district finals are March 9 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Westland closed the regular season by defeating host Central Crossing 78-64 on Feb. 15 to finish 9-5 in the OCC-Central.
Guard/forward J.J. Smith led the Cougars with 23 points, with Long (20), Grace (13) and guard Cory Beesler (10) also scoring in double figures.
Westland finished third in the OCC-Central, behind Liberty (13-1) and Dublin Coffman (12-2) and ahead of Thomas (8-6), Upper Arlington (8-6), Marysville (4-10), Davidson (2-12) and Central Crossing (0-14).
Gymnastics team competed at district
The gymnastics team competed in the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne.
The top three teams advanced to the state team meet Friday, March 1, at Hilliard Bradley and the top nine finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to the state individual meet Saturday, March 2, at Bradley.
Girls basketball team showed improvement
The girls basketball team improved on its 6-15 overall record from a year ago, finishing 10-13.
Westland finished 0-21 in the 2010-11 season in coach Hugo Quint's return to the program. He previously had coached the Cougars for 10 seasons, beginning in the 1995-96 season.
"We can't be satisfied with what we did," Quint said.
Seeded 20th of 43 teams, Westland lost to 24th-seeded Watterson 48-32 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 15 at home. Junior guard Tanesha Dixon led the Cougars with 12 points.
Dixon and junior forward Christina Simpson were named second-team all-OCC-Central and freshman forward Camryn Moreno was honorable mention all-league.
Simpson averaged a team-high 11.5 points. Dixon averaged 10.2 points and Moreno averaged 8.0.
The Cougars will lose only one player to graduation in senior forward Megan Garbrandt.
In addition to Dixon, Simpson and Moreno, another key contributor expected to return is sophomore post player Hunter Kershaw, who suffered a season-ending broken left leg in a 42-39 loss to Thomas Worthington on Dec. 14.
Kershaw was averaging 9.7 points at the time of her injury.
Simpson missed six games after partially tearing a ligament in her right knee in a 57-48 loss to Pickerington Central in the opener Nov. 23.
Also expected to return are juniors Rachelle Marcum (forward) and Nicole Weber (forward) and sophomores Savannah Badillo (forward), Sarah Demana (guard), Jaide Douglas (guard), Maria Hamilton (guard) and Brianna Taylor (guard).
Westland went 6-8 in the OCC-Central to tie Central Crossing for fifth, behind Coffman (12-2), Davidson (12-2), Liberty (9-5) and Upper Arlington (8-6) and ahead of Thomas (3-11) and Marysville (0-14).
"We had adversities with our injuries and we overcame them," Quint said. "In the big picture, we were an example of overcoming our adversity."