Victor Waitkus has displayed heart and desire since joining his teammates on the Whetstone High School boys golf team in early August.
The junior underwent two heart surgeries in a seven-month period and is helping to lead the Braves despite getting in little offseason work.
"I went out and hit my first bucket of balls near the beginning of August and then about one week later, I shot a 53 (over nine holes) in my first (practice) round," he said. "I'm shooting about where I was last year, in the mid- to upper-50s. I stayed active, and some things like swinging a club or a bat are just like riding a bike, I guess."
Heart concerns are nothing new to Waitkus, who also is a member of Whetstone's bowling and baseball teams.
"He has a congenital heart defect and has had a cardiologist since he was a baby for an aortic valve stenosis," his mother, Deborah Waitkus, said. "There really had never been a problem until his checkup in May 2016. He basically had three options: to repair his valve, get an artificial valve or to replace his valve. The artificial valve would mean he would be on blood thinners the rest of his life."
Waitkus chose to have his valve repaired and underwent surgery on Nov. 16. But during his post-operation checkup on March 2, he learned that his valve was still leaking blood into the heart, so he elected to undergo a Ross procedure, during which a patient's aortic valve is removed and replaced with the similarly shaped pulmonary valve and the pulmonary valve is replaced with that from a donor. He underwent that procedure on June 6.
Through it all, Waitkus has remained pretty calm.
"Things happen in life and you just deal with it and move on," he said. "Sometimes you don't have much choice. You can't get all worked up about it. I trusted everyone in the process."
For his mother, it was quite an ordeal.
"He was in the (second) operation for nine hours, so I was just so relieved when it was over," she said. "He was only in (Nationwide Children's Hospital) for five days. I thought the recovery would be horrific, but all of the specialists were great and Victor worked hard in rehab. I thought he would take it easy for a while, but after working with (the specialists), he was very active."
There were some minor issues, however.
"I had some tightness around the shoulder blades and some limitations on rotations, which is important when you swing a golf club," Waitkus said. "But we got that worked out."
Entering the week, Waitkus was averaging 58.8 per nine holes for the Braves, who were 6-0 in the City League. Kalman Buterbaugh had a team-best 55.3 average.
"The best thing is that before the surgeries, I had to be real careful with any chest pains and I had always felt a little restricted," said Waitkus, who had a 54.8 league average last season. "But I don't have that any longer. I'm having fun and enjoying everything."
Volleyball team snaps
Stars' winning streak
The girls volleyball team defeated host Centennial 25-11, 25-13, 25-16 on Sept. 7 to end the Stars' City League-North Division winning streak that dated to 2011.
The Stars had won 76 consecutive City-North matches since the start of the 2012 season. They had not lost to a City League opponent since falling 25-27, 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 to Eastmoor Academy in the City championship match in 2012.
Whetstone was 8-2 overall and 5-0 in the league entering a Sept. 12 match at East.
"I think it's amazing," said outside hitter/setter Hannah Reed, who had 15 assists and four aces against the Stars. "If we stay focused, we'll be in the City championship. That's just an awesome feeling, especially in my senior year. Everyone on this team is like family. We've played together for years and we're putting things together."
If the Braves and Stars tie for the City-North title, Whetstone would advance to the City final.
Whitney Staggs had seven kills and eight blocks against Centennial and Dahlia Kleen added six kills.
"We played well as a team and our experience showed," coach Errole Rembert said. "We've got eight seniors who are playing very well right now. We are a mature team. Most of these girls played j.v. together and our j.v. team has beaten (Centennial) the past three years, so they have confidence on the varsity level."
The Braves won the Toledo Christian tournament on Sept. 9, beating host Toledo Emmanuel Christian 25-23, 25-11 in the championship match after defeating Toledo Monclova Christian 25-9, 25-19 in a semifinal.
Football teams still
seeking first victory
The football team will begin City-North play as host to East on Friday, Sept. 15.
Both teams enter the contest 0-3. The Braves have been outscored by an average of 27.3 points to 7.3, while the Tigers have been outscored by an average of 25.7 to seven. Whetstone won last year's meeting 43-6.
Whetstone is coming off a 38-10 loss to Whitehall on Sept. 8, while East lost to West 42-7 that same night.
The Tigers had just 144 total yards against West, with receiver Shahqim Edwards scoring on an 18-yard pass from quarterback Ar'mon Mackey.
Against Whitehall, the Braves allowed two rushers to surpass 100 yards and were outgained 445-212 in total yards. Whetstone had 68 yards rushing, led by fullback Marlon Curry with 56 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Terris Crider was 10-for-19 passing for 144 yards and a 9-yard touchdown toss to slotback Dalton Daugherty.
Tight end T.J. Johnson had four catches for 54 yards.
Girls soccer team
prepping for Stars
The girls soccer team opened City League play Sept. 12 at Briggs.
With just four teams, the City has doubled the number of league games this season from three to six. The Braves will play Briggs, Centennial and International twice each.
"I just hope to be competitive with every team we play," said coach Doug Kohler, whose team was 3-2 overall before playing Briggs. "I don't want to be involved in games where the scores are 10-0. That's not fun for anyone. ... I just want to see steady improvement and growth (within the league)."
The Braves will play at International on Thursday, Sept. 14, before traveling to Centennial on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Last season, Whetstone defeated Centennial 7-1 in the regular season and 2-1 in the City final. The Braves and Stars have met in the City championship game each year since its inception. Centennial won the first one 1-0 in 2011, but Whetstone has won the past five.
"It's been awhile since we've lost to (Centennial) and I don't want to be the coach on the sideline when the streak ends," Kohler said. "... (Centennial hasn't) been too close until the championship game last year.
"But they are closing the gap and have a large, talented team. It appears we'll end up playing three times. That'll make things more interesting because we'll know each other's strategies and tendencies."
Runners set for
The cross country teams will play host to the annual Arrowhead Invitational on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
Expected to join the Braves in the event are Africentric, Beechcroft, Bexley, Briggs, Centennial, Eastmoor Academy, Franklin Heights, Hamilton Township, Mifflin, Northland, South, Tree of Life, Walnut Ridge, Watterson, Westland and Whitehall.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 16 -- Shin Splint Invitational at Westland
Sept. 20 -- Arrowhead Invitational at home
*Sept. 14 -- Mifflin at Airport
*Sept. 19 -- Northland and Walnut Ridge at Raymond Memorial
*Sept. 14 -- Home vs. East
*Sept. 19 -- At Beechcroft
*Sept. 14 -- At International
Sept. 16 -- At Whitehall
*Sept. 19 -- At Centennial
Sept. 16 -- Grandview Invitational
Sept. 18 -- At Grove City
*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Mifflin
*Sept. 14 -- At International
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Beechcroft. The Braves beat the Cougars 25-2, 25-5, 25-6 on Aug. 24.
Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Whitehall