Fourth-year Westland High School wrestling coach Bret Busby likes the direction in which his program is heading.
The Cougars opened Dec. 7 by playing host to the Joe Stora Duals on Dec. 7 and will compete in the dual-format Wolfpack Classic on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Worthington Kilbourne.
"We're very excited," Busby said. "We have a good group of student athletes. We have big numbers. I love the challenge and I love meeting the goals that we have set for ourselves in marching forward with the program."
The Cougars return a pair of Division I district qualifiers in seniors Tommy Stone (160 pounds) and Devin VanHandel (135).
Last season at district, VanHandel went 1-2 at 138 to finish 22-19 and Stone went 0-2 at 170 to finish 29-16, with Westland scoring three points to finish 32nd behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 teams scored.
Other returnees are senior Arnold Cruz (170), juniors Kyle Culp (220), Brian Foster (120), Cameron Maxwell (heavyweight), Steven Park (112), Blake Rece (106) and Greg Rummel (130) and sophomore Josh Brown (140).
Rummel was 16-16 last season.
Cruz, Rece, Stone and VanHandel are serving as team captains.
"We're really excited about our senior leadership of Arnold Cruz, Tommy Stone and Devin VanHandel," Busby said. "We have awesome (junior varsity) kids this year and a really strong freshmen class."
Westland, which went 0-7 in the OCC-Central Division last season to finish eighth behind champion Marysville (7-0), has two other seniors in Nick Green and Julio Marquez. Each is a first-year wrestler.
After 12 years of being a host for a sectional tournament, Westland has decided not to play host to the tournament this season.
"(The sectional tournament is) such a big event and to pull that off, it was time to pass it on to some other people," Busby said. "It's weird that it's not going to be here, but that was a lot of work."
Gymnastics team has two returnees
The gymnastics team has two returnees in senior Brenna Nutini and junior Moene' Mickens.
Nutini is in her fourth season with the program and Mickens is in her second.
Also on the team are freshmen India Alston, Emani Lewis, Kailee Little and Avery Mills.
"Again, Westland is a small, young team," 14th-year coach Lavon Maynard said. "Although this is Brenna's fourth year, she is strictly a high school gymnast. She does not train in a gym during the offseason and has never competed in club gymnastics."
According to Maynard, Mills is a first-year gymnast but is a member of the AAU national trampoline and tumbling team.
"She has great tumbling skills but has never competed vault, bars or beam and struggles with the dance skills needed for floor routines," Maynard said.
Last season, Westland finished 23rd (97.375) in the 24-team district meet behind champion Kilbourne (140.625) and did not have any individual state qualifiers.
The Cougars went 1-4 in OCC-Central duals last season and placed fifth (101.525) in the six-team league meet behind Kilbourne (137.45), Hilliard Davidson (127.225), Olentangy Liberty (125.525) and Delaware (111.25) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (89.25).
"Our goal as a team is to improve our team scores from last season and to learn new skills to add difficulty to our individual routines," Maynard said.
Boys basketball team loses first two games
The boys basketball team lost its first two games, falling in both of its contests in the Grove City Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 29 and 30.
Westland lost to Grove City 107-48 in its opener. Javon Watson led the Cougars with 18 points.
"I thought you could really tell it was our kids' first varsity experience," coach Seth Martin said. "Grove City is a very good team and is really aggressive and they came out hitting shots and were physical and we were shell-shocked. Inexperience and nerves got the best of us."
The Cougars lost to Centennial 54-49 in the consolation game of the Tip-Off Classic the next day. Watson had a team-high 17 points and Toury Freeman scored 13.
"I thought that our kids did a great job of following our game plan defensively and we played with great energy," Martin said. "I was proud of the way we came back and played after our performance (against Grove City). We competed the whole game and won the rebound battle (against Centennial). This group will get better each game with more and more experience."
Westland began OCC-Central play Dec. 6 against Marysville.
Girls basketball team wins first two games
The girls basketball team was 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Marysville on Dec. 6.
Westland defeated host Central Crossing 54-30 in a league game Nov. 29 in its opener, getting 16 points from Christina Simpson and 10 from Tanesha Dixon.
The Cougars then beat host Hamilton Township 54-47 in overtime Dec. 3, as Simpson and Hunter Kershaw each scored 17 points and Dixon scored 10.
"We talk to our players about being in the best condition and playing hard every day, especially in practice," coach Hugo Quint said. "If practice is a war to get through, then the game should be easy and (Dec. 3) was an example of that. The energy and the effort that our kids put forth was an example of overcoming adversity."