The Thomas Worthington High School wrestling team managed a split with two of the top Division I teams in the state on Jan. 11.
The Cardinals beat Hilliard Davidson 34-33 on criteria and lost to Marysville 40-28 in OCC-Central Division dual matches. The match against Davidson ended in a 33-all tie, but Thomas was awarded the victory because it had four pins and the Wildcats had three.
The week of the dual matches, Marysville was ranked sixth in the state poll and Davidson was 11th.
"Beating Davidson was a nice victory because it had been over a decade since we've done that," coach Mark Gundling said. "It was nice to check that off of our to-do list. Davidson was ranked third in the (Division I area coaches poll) then.
"Against Marysville, which is the top team in the district, we were in it up until the last three matches. We still have a chance to share the league championship if Davidson can beat Marysville (on Jan. 31)."
In the area coaches poll last week, the Cardinals were fifth, behind Marysville, Mount Vernon, Delaware and Hilliard Darby, and Davidson was seventh.
"It's interesting that our only loss was to Marysville and that we beat the third-ranked team (in the area coaches poll) and we only moved to No. 5. Plus, we only have one wrestler, Andrew Shackleford at 182 (pounds), who is ranked in the top three of a weight class in the (area coaches poll)."
According to Gundling, there were many bright spots in the loss to Marysville. Among them was the performance of junior Noah Messerall, who beat David Sparks 6-4 at 132. Sparks was ranked fourth in the state at 126 at the time but moved up a weight class.
Messerall had a 17-4 record before the Cardinals defeated Dublin Coffman 55-13 and Olentangy Liberty 44-27 in OCC-Central Division matches Jan. 17.
"I went into that match ticked off because (Davidson's) Lee Wilson pinned me in the first round earlier," Messerall said. "I went right after him and led 4-0 in the first minute on a takedown and back points, but he reversed me to make it 4-2 after the first period. It was 4-3 in the third period and I took him down again. He got an escape, but I held on. I was dog tired so there wasn't much celebration, but I was pretty ecstatic."
"Noah is extremely fast and has a ton of natural talent," Gundling said. "He's a great athlete and wrestling seems like second nature to him. He has the technique and the sport mastered."
Before Jan. 17, Ben Hooff (138) and Kasey Ackley (120) were the team leaders in victories, as Hooff was 21-4 and Ackley was 20-4.
"Hooff has 21 wins already as a sophomore," Gundling said.
"He's one of our kids who works year-round at the sport. He has great fundamentals and is great on his feet. He's going to go a long way in the postseason.
"Ackley is an extremely tough kid. He has won a number of very tough matches. He goes whistle to whistle and is very aggressive. He put in so much time toward being a champion and I think he has that capability."
Also with 11 or more wins before Jan. 17 were Shackleford (19-3), Alex Good (18-6 at 145), Brooks Gilmore (17-5 at heavyweight), Tyler Norris (15-3 at 106), Phil McKinney (15-7 at 195), Max King (15-8 at 160), Will Coleman (14-10 at 126), Martice Johnson (13-8 at 113) and James Ford (11-8 at 220).
The inaugural Division I state team tournament began Jan. 23, with fourth-seeded Thomas competing against fifth-seeded Kilbourne in the first round of Region 5-B of the dual-format tournament.
The winner will face top-seeded Hilliard Darby or eighth-seeded New Albany in the second round Wednesday, Jan. 30, at a site to be announced. The regional semifinal will be held that same day at the same site, with the winner advancing to a regional final Feb. 6.
The Cardinals beat Kilbourne 53-12 on Jan. 3.
Also in Region 5-B are second-seeded Westerville North, third-seeded Hilliard Bradley, sixth-seeded Westerville South and seventh-seeded Whetstone.
Meehan among win leaders for Wolves
Kilbourne defeated Dublin Scioto 56-19 but lost to Darby 53-19 in OCC-Cardinal matches Jan. 17.
"We got thumped by Darby, but our effort was better," coach Brett Shaut said. "I was not pleased with the results, but I was pleased with most of our efforts. Our team is coming along and we are working hard to achieve our goals. It is a process and there are no shortcuts. We will continue to put the work in and give our best each and every match. We hope our hard work will produce good results in the sectional, districts and state."
Winning against Darby were Alex Meehan at 220 and Lucky Shaut at 132. Meehan pinned Chad Miller in 2 minutes, 43 seconds and Shaut beat Belal Musetif 12-10.
Entering this week, Meehan was 24-0, Shaut was 21-6, Austin Oberly was 23-2 at 106 and Kyle Wahl was 19-5 at 145.