The Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestling team entered the season expecting to contend for the MSL-Ohio Division title.

The Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestling team entered the season expecting to contend for the MSL-Ohio Division title.

Coach Steve Pennington, who is in his 10th season, also believes the Rams can make a solid run in the postseason.

"The overall goal is always to do well across the state," he said. "We always want to win the MSL-Ohio and do well in central Ohio, but your goal every year is to get kids to the state tournament and hopefully get placers every year."

The Rams opened the season by scoring 286 points to win the Dan Gartner Duals on Dec. 8 at New Rosemore Middle School ahead of runner-up Buckeye Valley (230).

Whitehall will compete in the league tournament Feb. 9 and in the first OHSAA Division II dual meet tournament, which begins Jan. 23.

Last season, Whitehall finished second (190.5 points) in the league tournament behind Licking Valley (258) and ahead of Newark Catholic (131.5), Granville (96.5), Columbus Academy (84), Bexley (83), Lakewood (83.5) and Heath (64). The Panthers won their fourth consecutive league championship.

The Rams were second (163) in the 13-team sectional at Big Walnut behind champion Sparta Highland (172.5) and 12th (47) in the district tournament at Uhrichsville Claymont behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 36 teams scored.

Whitehall did not score at state as Noah Jay (106 pounds), Alex Farrow (220) and Ashden Gibson (132) each went 0-2. It marked the fifth consecutive season Whitehall qualified a wrestler for state.

St. Paris Graham (183.5) won the state title.

"We thought those three kids had a shot of making state," Pennington said.

"We thought we had a shot with a couple others also, but fell short at the district tournament. Those three really stepped up and took charge of the team."

Jay, Farrow and Gibson again are expected to lead the Rams. Jay and Gibson are juniors and Farrow is a senior.

"As a team, we plan on taking the league title and the sectional title, and then qualifying for the state dual meets," Jay said.

"Also, we have several individuals striving to win a state title this year."

Jay, who will compete at 106, was 35-9 last season. Farrow, who will compete at heavyweight, was 37-7 and Gibson, who will compete at 138, was 45-8.

Also back are seniors Ifa Abduljelil (42-5 last season) at 152, Bryce Hortz (26-13) at 170 and Noah Young (17-12) at 160.

All three qualified for district last season.

Other returnees are seniors Josh Delgadillo (32-9) at 132 and Abiel Kiflu at 120, juniors A.J. Drake (182) and Matt McGarran (106) and sophomores Travis Bailey (145), Brandon Faucett (182) and Tyler Thomas (170).

Other wrestlers are seniors Trevon Lofton (145) and Isaiah Turner (220) and freshmen Ana Abduljelil (113), Zach Heimerl (113), Manny King (195), Ray Madero (106), Elijah McGowan (126), Parker Riley (113/120) and Michael Thompson (106).

"We're ready," Pennington said. "We have a very experienced team, so getting them ready for this season is pretty minimal."