Mark Niemann has been a longtime supporter of high school wrestling in central Ohio.

He hopes his passion for the sport makes a difference in his new role as the coach at Westland.

The 39-year-old replaces Chas McCutcheon, who was the coach for three seasons after serving as an assistant the previous four years under Bret Busby.

"I want to expose as many people (as possible) to wrestling," Niemann said. "Now that I'm at Westland, it's all Cougars all the time. ... A lot of things worked in my favor, but in the end hopefully (I was hired because of) my charisma and my enthusiasm to be named the next head wrestling coach at Westland High School."

Niemann, a 1996 graduate of Groveport, was an assistant coach for the Cruisers from 2007-08 through 2010-11 before serving as head coach in the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

He did not coach in the 2013-14 season because he was student-teaching. He also has coached at the youth and middle school levels.

"Coach Niemann is well known in the central Ohio wrestling arena," athletics director Mike George said. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm and experience to our program. Our kids need that. I am sure he will do great things here at Westland."

Niemann and Shawn Penn co-founded "Inside the Circle," a popular wrestling webcast throughout the state, in 2013. He expects to maintain the webcast as he begins his tenure with the Cougars.

"I want to keep things going," he said. "It has become a major resource for a lot more than just my buddy and I. Coaches inside the (Central District) along with coaches outside the district in Cleveland and Cincinnati pay attention to it."

Niemann also will join the school district as a teacher, serving as a language arts teacher at Pleasant View Middle School in Grove City.

He hopes to focus on the tradition and history of the wrestling program and duplicate the success of longtime coach Roger Branham, who led the Cougars to a district title in 1999 and OCC titles in 1998, 1999 and 2003.

Branham, who retired before the start of the 2010-11 season, coached two Division I state champions at Westland, including his son, Andy, at 135 pounds in 1999. T.J. Enright won the title at 130 in 2003.

Branham was inducted into the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Busby was an assistant under Branham for 10 seasons before taking over the program after Branham retired.

"I not only want to get the kids involved, but I want parents involved," Niemann said. "I want alumni involved. I want former wrestlers involved. I want former coaches involved.

"I want coach Branham back. I want to honor him in the way that he should be honored. I have a job because of the job he did years ago. He kept this going. This program has (an) amazing history."

Track coach
pleased with effort

Track and field coach Tim Eckard was pleased with the effort of his athletes in the Division I district meet, which concluded May 20 at Hilliard Darby.

Led by junior Trent Bott, the boys finished 14th (11) of 15 teams in district 2 behind champion Gahanna (151).

Bott was third in the shot put (48 feet, 1 1/4 inches) to advance to the regional May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North, where the top four finishers in each event advanced to state Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State.

Mohamed Farah was sixth in the 3,200 meters (10 minutes, 12.68 seconds) and Curtiss Shore was seventh in the discus (129-4) to account for the Cougars' other points.

The girls team did not score in the district 3 meet. Stephanie Buruca, Payton Compton, Aja Nathans and Kaela Ponce were ninth in the 3,200 relay (11:24.8), and Nathans was 11th in the 3,200 (13:22.04).

"I was very pleased with the efforts of both our girls and boys in the district meet," Eckard said. "Over one-half of the kids (had personal records) and that is all you can ask from a really young team. You hope that inexperienced athletes don't crack under the pressure of the postseason and to our kids' credit, not only did they not crack, they stepped up and performed their best under the spotlight."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank