Having returned seven starters, including four Division I district qualifiers from a year ago, the Thomas Worthington High School wrestling team is looking to contend for league and sectional titles.
Last season, the Cardinals went 6-1 in the OCC-Central Division to finish second behind Marysville (7-0) and placed third (182.5) in the 10-team sectional at Watkins Memorial behind Hilliard Bradley (205) and Pickerington Central (200.5).
"We lost a lot of talent with a great senior class, but I think we've reloaded quite well," fourth-year coach Mark Gundling said. "We've got a good core and we also have an outstanding sophomore group."
The returning district qualifiers are seniors Bill Coleman (132 pounds) and Noah Messerall (145), junior Ben Hooff (138) and sophomore Tyler Norris (106).
Last season, Messerall, who went 34-7 at 132, and Hooff, who was 33-8 at 138, both were state alternates, having placed fifth at district. Coleman finished 26-18 at 126 last year and Norris went 23-12 at 106.
"Messerall is a very talented athlete who has mastered the technique of wrestling," Gundling said. "Hooff had a lot of matches in the offseason and he's an excellent wrestler with a lot of skill and experience. I certainly expect both of them to get to state and would be disappointed if they didn't."
The other returning letterwinners are juniors James Ford (220) and Nate Good (170) and sophomore Martice Johnson (113). All three were in their same weight classes last season, with Ford finishing 23-13 and Good and Johnson going 11-15 and 18-18, respectively.
"Nate Good also has a lot of potential and he is experienced, having come all the way through our youth program," Gundling said. "Ford has come a long way and was an All-American in freestyle wrestling this summer. Norris, Johnson and A.J. Jones (182) are part of our great sophomore class who I think are going to have breakout seasons. They are dedicated to the sport."
Also on the roster are seniors Connor Glasgow (195), Scott Goffin (126), Wyatt Jarrell (152) and Ben Truesdale (120) and sophomores Liam Buchy (heavyweight), Garrett Coleman (106), Chase Forte (152) and Jay Hollenwood (195).
The Cardinals lost 11 wrestlers from a year ago to graduation, including state-qualifier Andrew Shackelford (182, 36-8) and district-qualifiers Brooks Gilmore (heavyweight, 32-8) and Kasey Ackley (120, 34-11).
Last season, Shackelford went 1-2 at state after winning a district championship.
"There's no doubt we had a strong senior class last year, but I believe we're just reloading," said Gundling, whose team lost to Hilliard Darby 36-21 in the second round of the inaugural state team tournament last season after defeating Kilbourne 46-16 in the first round. "We're getting closer to returning this program back to where it used to be."
The Cardinals opened Dec. 7, scoring 189 points to win the nine-team Olentangy Invitational. Lancaster (187) finished second and West Chester Lakota West (182).
Wolves return three district qualifiers
Kilbourne has returned three Division I district qualifiers from a year ago in seniors Danny Darby, Austin Oberly and Lucky Shaut.
Oberly returns at 106 after finishing 37-10 last season. Darby has moved up to 152 after going 20-18 at 138 a year ago, and Shaut, a three-time district qualifier, has jumped from 126 to 182 after finishing 31-11 last year.
"All three trained with Columbus Wrestling Club and should have good seasons," third-year coach Brett Shaut said. "Lucky and Austin went 2-2 at district and were one match from being state qualifiers. Both wrestled freestyle and Greco last spring and last summer. Lucky earned a spot on Team Ohio and wrestled in the national tournament in Fargo, N.D.
"Austin has been at 106 all four years and is very comfortable there. He's a two-time district qualifier and should have another strong season. Danny also ... has shown great improvement."
Other returning letterwinners are senior Vincent Wallace (195), juniors Darius Turner (152/160/170) and David Turner (170/182) and sophomores Andrew Cook (138/145/152), Charlie Osborn (113/120), Trent Plantz (132/138/145) and Trey Wallace (132/138/145).
Wallace, who competed at heavyweight last season, also trained with Columbus Wrestling Club, according to coach Shaut.
Tyler Silverthorn, who was a district qualifier last year at 120, did not return for his junior season.
Kilbourne also lost its only state qualifier from a year ago in 2013 graduate Kyle Wahl, who went 1-2 at 145 at state to finish 40-12.
The Wolves have moved to the OCC-Capital this season after finishing fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago behind champion Darby (7-0). Mount Vernon went 7-0 in the OCC-Capital last season to win the league championship, finishing ahead of Delaware (6-1), Olentangy Orange (5-2), Watkins Memorial (4-3), Olentangy (3-4), Big Walnut (2-5), New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
Watkins Memorial has moved to the Licking County League.
Kilbourne lost to Darby 56-19 in its opener Dec. 4. It then finished fourth (172) in the 10-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational on Dec. 7 behind Aurora (336), host Upper Arlington (286) and Orange (273). Oberly (106) and David Turner (182) were runners-up.