Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestlers Noah Jay and Ana Abduljelil continued their push to reach the Division II state tournament by winning titles in the MSL-Ohio Division tournament Feb. 1 at Bexley.
Jay won all three of his matches by pin in the round-robin format to finish first at 106 pounds, and Abduljelil won all four matches by pin to go 4-0 at 113.
"They're doing everything that they planned on doing this year," coach Steve Pennington said of Jay and Abduljelil. "We have the sectionals coming up (Feb. 15). I expect two sectional champs then go to districts and same thing."
The Rams, who won the league title a year ago, finished fourth with 160.5 points, behind West Jefferson (214.5), London (173.5) and Madison Plains (152) and ahead of Bexley (128.5), Grandview (101), Columbus Academy (84.5) and Harvest Prep (15).
"It didn't go exactly as planned, but it never does," Pennington said. "They're a young team and they wrestled hard."
Jay, a senior, will begin the postseason with extra incentive after failing to qualify for state last season. He appeared headed for a berth a year ago, as he was leading his state-qualifying match at district against Millersburg West Holmes' Cole Woods before being disqualified because of an illegal body slam.
Jay finished fifth, one spot from qualifying for state.
"I just had to move on to keep getting better," said Jay, who is a three-time league champion. "That made me mad. It has me working hard."
As a sophomore, Jay was 0-2 at 106 at state.
He improved to 26-2 this season with his three wins in the league tournament.
"Last year left a bad taste in his mouth," Pennington said. "He definitely wants to get back to the state tournament and be a placer."
Abduljelil, a sophomore, is looking for a return trip to state after finishing fifth at 113 last season.
"Ana is very driven and he's smart about it," Pennington said.
Abduljelil, who is 39-1, expects to improve on last season's finish.
"Last year gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "Now that I know I did that good last year my expectations are at another level. All my goals are all at another level, so now I have to get that much better."
Both credit training with each other in the practice room as a key to their development.
"Ana and I drill in the wrestling room," Jay said. "He pushes me and I push him. We work our butt off in that room and it should pay off this year, we're hoping."
Also in the league meet, Austin Nichols (145) and Travis Bailey (160) were second and Angolsom Weldu (120), A.J. Drake (170) and Tyler Thomas (182) were third.
Grandview's Brendan Fitzgerald, who was first at 120, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Whitehall, which competes against Springfield Shawnee and Johnstown on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Big Walnut, participates in a sectional Feb. 15 at Madison Plains. The top four in each weight class qualify for district Feb. 21 and 22 at Uhrichsville Claymont.
Boys basketball team seeking league title
The boys basketball team moved closer to an MSL-Ohio title with a pair of convincing wins, defeating visiting Madison Plains 95-56 on Jan. 30 and host London 93-79 on Jan. 31.
Whitehall was 13-5 overall and 10-1 in the league before playing West Jefferson on Feb. 4.
Grandview was second in the league at 7-1 before playing Academy on Feb. 4. The Bobcats, who defeated the Rams 56-53 on Jan. 17, visit Whitehall on Feb. 14.
"It's ours to lose and it's not going to be easy," coach Drew Williams said of the league title. "I have to figure out a way to get us dialed in defensively. We can score, but what I'm afraid of now is we have to get better defensively."
Against Madison Plains, Terronte Hutchins scored 32 points, D.A. Sanders had 26 and R.J. Mims added 12.
Mims returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a high sprain to his right ankle.
Against London, Sanders and Hutchins each scored 22 points and Mims and C.J. Prater each added 13.
Whitehall lost at home to Delaware 59-41 on Feb. 1 as Mims scored 13 points.
Girls bowlers win MSL title
The girls bowling team defended its MSL title, defeating Fisher Catholic 3-1 in the best-of-five Baker roll-off in the league tournament Feb. 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Senior Taylor-Jo Morton, who was first among 47 bowlers during preliminary round action with a 552 series, was named league Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Ashley Ford was fourth (433), Taylor Deskins was fifth (428) and Kaleigh Straits was eighth (413).
In addition to Morton, Ford, Deskins and Straits were named first-team all-league.
"These girls fought hard (Feb. 1)," coach Jess Biller said. "When the lane conditions turned tough at the end of the day, the girls had to fight through some ups and downs during the head-to-head Baker matches, but they did not give in. They stayed positive and focused, made the changes they needed to and in the end we pulled through."
The Rams were second in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South at 11-1 before facing Groveport on Feb. 3.
Briggs won the league title at 13-0.
The boys team lost to Logan Elm 3-0 in an MSL tournament semifinal. Austin Wilson was named Player of the Year after leading the Rams with a 714 series to finish first in the tournament among 49 bowlers, and Paul Gress was 12th (598).
The Rams were 12-2 in the COHSBC-South before facing Groveport.
Girls basketball team preps for postseason
The girls basketball team was 3-16 overall and 1-10 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Madison Plains on Feb. 3.
The Rams lost a league game at Bexley 47-27 on Jan. 31 as Brenell Williams scored 10 points.
Whitehall also lost at league-foe West Jefferson 53-38 on Jan. 30 as Williams scored 12 points and Stephanie Ellis added 10.
The Rams close the regular season with league games Friday, Feb. 7, at Grandview and Saturday, Feb. 8, at London.
The Division II district tournament draw was Feb. 2.
Whitehall is seeded 18th in the Division II district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Rams play at third-seeded Centennial or 17th-seeded London in the second round Feb. 19.