Andy Struttmann of the Westerville North High School wrestling team is looking forward to competing in the inaugural Division I state team tournament.
The junior, who is 19-5 on the season at 220 pounds, believes the Warriors can surprise some opponents in the dual-format tournament, which begins Wednesday, Jan. 23.
"We want to base ourselves as a championship team that we know we are," Struttmann said. "Everyone thinks we're an underdog, but we know we're not."
North is seeded second in Region 5-B and opens against seventh-seeded Whetstone at home. The winner will face third-seeded Hilliard Bradley or sixth-seeded Westerville South in the second round Jan. 30 at a site to be announced.
Also in the region are top-seeded Hilliard Darby, fourth-seeded Thomas Worthington, fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne and eighth-seeded New Albany.
North, South, Bradley, Darby and Kilbourne are members of the OCC-Cardinal Division. The Warriors lost to Darby 42-28 in their opening league dual Dec. 20.
"We were disappointed with the outcome against Darby, but now we might get a rematch with them (in a regional semifinal)," coach David Grant said. "We're excited about that. I love duals. I love lining up against another team and having some fun."
The regional semifinal also will be held Jan. 30, with the winner competing against the Region 5-A champion in the regional final Feb. 6.
Region 5-A consists of Ashland, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Scioto, Delaware, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Orange and Westerville Central.
North scored 60.5 points in the 39-team Medina Invitational Tournament on Dec. 28 and 29 to finish 22nd, behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (286). Struttmann placed fifth and Santino DiSabato was seventh at 113.
The Warriors placed second (233) in the 17-team Licking Heights Invitational on Jan. 11 and 12, behind Whitehall (239). DiSabato (113), Nick Durieux (132), Jake Hinz (160) and Shane Coulter (182) each won his weight class.
DiSabato and Durieux both are 18-3.
North will compete against South and Dublin Jerome in OCC-Cardinal duals Thursday, Jan. 17, at Bradley. Darby is first in the league at 3-0.
"I want that OCC title more than anything and losing to Darby was just heartbreaking," Struttmann said. "That's always in the back of my mind. It's pushing me even harder."
Wildcats looking to gain experience
South coach Kerry Burton realizes the state team tournament presents a major challenge for his team, but he is hoping that his wrestlers gain valuable experience from the competition.
"It will be a good thing for our kids," he said. "How we match up with a lot of those teams, how beneficial it's going to be for us, I don't know. I don't know if we're a state dual team, but we're in it. We'll give the kids a shot. I have lot of juniors on this team, so hopefully that will be an experience for them for next year."
South faces Bradley in the first round of Region 5-B on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at North, with the winner facing North or Whetstone in the second round Jan. 30.
The Wildcats opened their OCC-Cardinal schedule by losing to Kilbourne 45-30 on Dec. 20. They then split two league matches on Jan. 10, defeating Scioto 49-30 and losing to Darby 71-6.
"I told the kids after the first match that I wanted to see what type of heart they had," Burton said. "We matched up a lot better with Scioto. No disrespect to them, (but) they had five freshmen in the lineup. That always helps anybody, but it was nice to see our kids come back and be aggressive and get after it and do some of the things we've been working on and will hopefully help us move forward."
South finished ninth (66) in the 11-team Meatgrinder Invitational on Jan. 5 at Orange, behind champion Thomas Worthington (242).
Caleb Llaneza placed third at 145 and Grant Trainer (112), Mike Thesing (182) and Evan Trainer (160) finished fourth.
Llaneza is 19-4, Evan Trainer is 16-6, Thesing is 12-9 and Adam Thesing is 12-8 at 220.
Warhawks to face Delaware in state duals
Central is seeded seventh in Region 5-A and will face second-seeded Delaware in the first round of the state team tournament Wednesday, Jan. 23. The site was to be announced Jan. 15.
The winner faces third-seeded Orange or sixth-seeded Coffman in the second round Jan. 30 at a site to be announced. The regional semifinal also is Jan. 30, with the winner facing the Region 5-B champion in the regional final Feb. 6.
"Since we are young, the likelihood of us doing well in a dual meet tournament like that this year is kind of a tough order, but we're giving them another match and it gives them a year of experience to see what this is all about," coach Bob Fresch said.
Central opened its OCC-Cardinal schedule with a 64-6 loss to Jerome on Dec. 20.
The Warhawks finished 15th (109) in the 18-team West Jefferson Invitational on Dec. 28 and 29, behind champion Hillsboro (449), and finished eighth (73) in the Meatgrinder Invitational.
In the Meatgrinder Invitational, Alex Krasovec finished first at 152, Jason Relford (120) and Sky Hinton (132) placed fourth and Adam Lowe (170) and Emil Cooper (182) finished sixth.
Krasovec is 13-6 and Isayah Walker is 11-5 at heavyweight.
"We are young and we have a different lineup every week," Fresch said. "We have different guys going week in, week out. We like the progression of our young kids."