After having at least one Division I state qualifier in each of David Grant's first eight seasons as coach, the Westerville North High School wrestling team was not represented at state last season.
The Warriors are doing their best to make sure that doesn't become a trend.
"It was the first time in nine seasons that we didn't have a state qualifier, so we're definitely ready to get after it," said Grant, who is in his 10th season. "It was a big disappointment for us not to be in the state tournament, so we definitely want to improve our performance from last year."
North opened Dec. 1, going 2-2 and placing seventh in the eight-team Cincinnati Moeller Super Duals. On Dec. 7, the Warriors scored 470 points to win the eight-team Madison Plains Invitational ahead of runner-up Madison Plains (236).
The Warriors return three of their seven district qualifiers from last season, including junior Nick Durieux, who was a state alternate after placing fifth at district at 132 pounds. He finished 20-9 a year ago and is expected to compete at 138 this year.
The other returning district qualifiers are junior Santino DiSabato (106, 31-8 last season) and sophomore Jacob Herrera (120, 16-14).
Grant also expects seniors Shane Coulter (182, 20-9) and Nick Perrotti (170, 17-16), junior Andy Struttmann (220) and sophomores Jake Hinz (160, 25-12) and Nic Kramer (195, 26-13) to be key contributors.
Others looking to contribute include seniors Isaak VanHoose (heavyweight) and Thomas Wiley (152), junior Hunter Sintobin (145), sophomore Mike Kline (126) and freshmen Brandon Goldsmith (132) and Zach Kelly (106).
"We have a good squad from top to bottom," Grant said. "We had a great offseason training."
Last season, North placed fifth (148) in the 10-team sectional at Pickerington Central behind champion Olentangy (249.5) and finished 20th (24) at district at Hilliard Darby behind champion Marysville (174) as 37 teams scored.
The Warriors placed fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Cardinal Division a year ago, behind Marysville (7-0), Olentangy (6-1) and Olentangy Liberty (5-2) and ahead of Westerville Central (2-5), Dublin Jerome (2-5), Dublin Scioto (1-6) and Westerville South (1-6).
As part of OCC realignment, Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital and Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central. Those teams were replaced by Darby and Worthington Kilbourne from the OCC-Central and Hilliard Bradley from the OCC-Capital.
North plays host to Darby in its opening league dual Dec. 20.
Warhawks return one district qualifier
Central returns one district qualifier in junior Adam Lowe, who competed at 182 and was 19-20 last season.
Lowe is expected to compete at 182 and 195 this year.
"This team is very young," fifth-year coach Bob Fresch said.
"I can't predict from one week to the next how they would do in a tournament because the lineup is probably going to change quite a bit from now until about mid-January."
Central lost seven wrestlers from a year ago to graduation, including their only state qualifier in Zach Brown, who went 2-2 at state and placed eighth at 160. Brown finished 46-6 last season.
The other returnees are seniors Alex Krasovec (152) and Marc Navejar (138), juniors Erik Kullman (145), Justin Mills (152/160/170) and Isayah Walker (heavyweight) and sophomores John Fitz-gibbon (152), Sky Hinton (132) and Keane Moyer (145/152).
Central opened Dec. 1, finishing fifth (72) in the eight-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington behind champion Olentangy Orange (197). The Warhawks also placed fifth (171) in the Madison Plains Invitational.
Walker finished first in the Golden Bear Invitational.
"I'd like to do better than what I did last year and become a district qualifier," Walker said. "(Finishing first in the Golden Bear Invitational) gave me a lot more confidence."
Last season, Central placed seventh (116.5) in the 10-team sectional at Watkins Memorial behind champion Lancaster (220.5), finished 18th (33) at district and tied for 62nd (3) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (223.5) as 84 teams scored.
The Warhawks went 2-5 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to tie Jerome for fifth.
"I want to see the returning veterans get a chance to do better than what they did last year," Fresch said.
Trainer expected to lead Wildcats
South did not have any state qualifiers last season and returns its only district qualifier in junior Evan Trainer.
Trainer went 0-2 at district at 160 last year and finished 17-21. He is expected to compete at 160 and 170 this season.
"We're looking to have more district qualifiers this year," Trainer said. "We're really disappointed with (having only) one kid last year, but we're looking pretty good."
The Wildcats opened by finishing fourth (101.5) in the Golden Bear Invitational, with Trainer placing second at 170 and another returnee, junior Caleb Llaneza, finishing first at 152.
Llaneza finished 22-8 at 145 last season.
"Caleb and Evan are our two most experienced wrestlers," said first-year coach Kerry Burton, who replaced Tim Michel. "They need to really step up and be leaders. Some of these (junior varsity) kids, we just need to see improvement. Hopefully by the end of the year, some of them can come out of their shell, surprise us, and we can get some more district qualifiers out."
The other returnees are juniors James Fickle (heavyweight), Evan Pivetz (120), Adam Thesing (220), Mike Thesing (195) and Josh Tischler (152/160) and sophomores Korey Boggs (120/126) and Tommy Lomano (113).
The Thesing brothers both placed second in the Golden Bear Invitational.
Hunter Dietz , a junior who was 27-16 last season at 152, is expected to miss the season with a shoulder injury, Burton said.
Last season, South finished 10th (38) in the sectional at Watkins Memorial and did not score at district.
The Wildcats went 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago to tie Scioto for seventh.
"We're in a situation with the amount of kids that we have, (that) we want to do as well as we can in duals," Burton said. "But the reality of it is we just don't have a dual team. We look at tournaments and try to build kids into district qualifiers (and) state qualifiers."