As the Westerville Central High School wrestling team continues to fight injuries and illnesses, coach Phil Carney has jumped into the middle of practices to help offset the lack of athletes while also doing some instructing.
During a practice Jan. 10, the Warhawks were without seven wrestlers.
Forfeiting six weight classes, Central lost to host Westerville North 77-4 and Hilliard Bradley 74-0 in OCC-Cardinal Division matches Jan. 9.
The Warriors and Jaguars entered the season as favorites to contend for the league title.
"As a team, we're trying to focus on the positives," Carney said. "We just took two bad beatings to North and Bradley, but you still have to keep people's spirits up because it has to be fun for them. We have to focus on that we're almost all freshmen and sophomores.
"We're 5-5 in duals. We had two bad losses, but we lost to two great teams. We tried our best. When you're missing seven or eight guys, you do the best with what you can."
Although the team's lack of depth has deterred its progress, Carney believes several individuals are making strides.
Freshman Tre Bogetich is 17-8 at 106 pounds and sophomore Will Green is 14-5 at 138 and 145. Last season, Green finished 7-25.
Central also has been boosted by the return of senior Adam Lowe (160/170), who opted not to participate early in the season because of other commitments.
"We work hard in the practice room," Lowe said. "It's a matter of staying focused, going out there and trying our hardest. Our team is real young, so rebuilding is important, getting people to come back. It's rough because we have such a small number."
A big loss came before the season when senior heavyweight Isayah Walker was lost for the year after undergoing knee surgery for an injury that occurred during football season. He went 25-17 last season.
Central, which opened its OCC-Cardinal schedule by losing to Dublin Jerome 49-21 on Dec. 12, faces Dublin Scioto and Hilliard Darby in league duals Thursday, Jan. 16, at Canal Winchester before competing in the Gold Medals Invitational Friday, Jan. 17, and Saturday, Jan. 18, at Napoleon.
The Warhawks were 12th (73.5 points) of 17 teams behind champion Pickerington North (231) in the Pioneer Invitational on Jan. 4 at Olentangy Orange.
They open the Division I state team tournament Wednesday, Jan. 22, against Delaware. The Warhawks are seeded seventh and the Pacers are seeded second in Region 5-B.
North wins title at Licking Heights
North scored 304.5 points to win the Licking Heights Invitational held Jan. 10 and 11, finishing ahead of runner-up London (162) in the 16-team tournament.
Winning titles were Santino DiSabato (126), Nick Durieux (138), Brandon Goldsmith (145), Hunter Sintobin (152), Mason Pillow (160), Nick Kramer (195) and Andy Struttmann (220).
"The weekend was exciting," coach David Grant said. "It's fun to watch our guys start to get into a groove. They are training and fighting as a team. We have some new guys stepping up and thriving. That's always rewarding for our coaches as well."
The Warriors are 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, including a 39-24 win over host Darby on Dec. 19.
North, which defeated Canal Winchester 81-0 and Central 77-4 in league duals Jan. 9 at home, face Jerome and Westerville South on Thursday, Jan. 16, at Bradley.
The Warriors return to Bradley on Jan. 30 to compete against the Jaguars in a match that could decide the league title.
North is seeded first in Region 5-B of the Division I state team tournament. The Warriors open Wednesday, Jan. 22, against eighth-seeded Whetstone.
Llaneza leading way for South
Caleb Llaneza is 16-0 for South, with first-place finishes at 152 in the Marion Harding Classic on Dec. 27 and the Pioneer Invitational.
Marcus Williamson is 7-2 at 160, Mike Thesing is 10-6 at 170 and Adam Thesing is 8-4 at 195.
South defeated Scioto 47-30 and lost to Darby 55-15 in OCC-Cardinal matches Jan. 9 at home.
The Wildcats visit Bradley on Thursday, Jan. 16, to face North and the Jaguars in league duals and then compete in the Lion Duals on Saturday, Jan. 18, at Gahanna.
South will compete against visiting Canal Winchester in a league dual Wednesday, Jan. 22. The match was postponed Dec. 19.
The Wildcats have opted not to participate in the Division I state team tournament.