After watching his team fall to Logan Elm 49-16 in its opening dual match Dec. 1, first-year Westland High School wrestling coach Mark Niemann said he was hoping to see progress in the early part of the season.
According to Niemann, the Cougars delivered Dec. 20 even though they lost to Circleville 51-30 and Grove City 52-24 at home.
"I saw some great stuff," Niemann said. "We were here two-and-a-half weeks ago against Logan Elm. It was brand new so it was the first match we had and I didn't know what to expect. I expected better than Logan Elm this week and that's exactly what I got. We actually got a little bit better than I expected, so I love that."
Against Grove City, the Cougars jumped ahead 12-0 on pins by Edgar Cruz at 113 pounds (1 minute, 27 seconds) and Bryson Palmer at 120 (1:39) before the Greyhounds took control, opening a 37-12 lead.
Cruz went 0-2 at 106 in the Division I district tournament last season as a freshman. He's hoping to better that performance this winter.
"I've improved so much," Cruz said. "During the offseason, I started to work out and build up my muscle. I built up endurance and I feel like I can go longer periods."
Westland's other points against Grove City came on back-to-back pins from Andrew Sherman at 182 (3:05) and Kyle Newman at 195 (1:38).
Against Circleville, the Cougars' points resulted from five forfeits.
Central Crossing also competed in the quad match, defeating Grove City 51-22 and Circleville 36-18.
The Cougars and Comets did not wrestle because they have an OCC-Central Division match Feb. 8 at Westland.
An interested spectator was former Westland coach Chas McCutcheon, who has remained as the youth wrestling program coordinator. McCutcheon, a 2000 graduate of Westland, was the coach the past three seasons after serving as an assistant the previous four under Bret Busby.
"I'm at the point of my life where I've decided that family comes first," he said. "I've spent the last seven years coaching. This is year eight with the little kids and I've given a lot of time here and it was time to put my own children ahead of my ambitions. ... It's tough to watch. I have great relationships with the kids. I'm glad to see improvement."
Westland will compete in the West Jefferson Invitational on Friday, Dec. 29, and Saturday, Dec. 30. Niemann said it will give his team valuable experience.
"I've never been there," he said. "I know they wrestle five matches the first day and then five matches the second day. It's going to be a great 10 matches. We have to be ready to go. Our goal is to be better than we were (Dec. 20) and that means hitting the moves that we teach every single day."
Boys team to play in Briggs tourney
The boys basketball team enters the Bruin Holiday Tournament at Briggs looking to rebound from a pair of lopsided losses.
The Cougars lost at Dublin Coffman 103-34 on Dec. 15 as Zach Winegardner scored a team-high 12 points, and they fell at Pickerington North 90-25 on Dec. 19 as Josh Douglas led with seven points.
"This was a learning experience for a lot of younger guys that haven't really got a lot of varsity experience," said coach Rob Hayes, whose team was 0-5 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Upper Arlington on Dec. 22. "You play a team like Pick North with a bunch of guys who are still getting their feet wet as players and there's going to be a pretty steep learning curve."
Westland plays Briggs in the first round of the tournament Wednesday, Dec. 27. The Bruins were 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the City League-South before playing Marion-Franklin on Dec. 22.
Through six games, the Bruins' Xavier Jennings was averaging a team-best 15.5 points.
"Briggs is an athletic, aggressive team," Hayes said. "They're going to look to attack us inside. We have to do a much better job of protecting the paint. They're going to be coming down the lane strong, so we need to figure out a plan to protect that area."
The winner plays Columbus Academy or New Albany in the tournament final Thursday, Dec. 28. The losing teams meet in the third-place game.
"We need to focus on ourselves and making sure that we're executing what we're trying to execute, because we can't afford to look at anything as anything less than a substantial challenge because that's where our preparation level needs to be," Hayes said.
Girls team to face Hamilton Township
The girls basketball team returns to action Friday, Dec. 29, at home against Hamilton Township.
Westland was 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central before playing UA on Dec. 22.
The Cougars lost at home to Coffman 90-31 on Dec. 15 and Pickerington North 86-48 on Dec. 19.
Junior guard Trinity McClure continued her impressive season with 23 points against Coffman and 32 against North. Through seven games, she was averaging 29.7 points.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling teams:
Dec. 27 -- At Briggs in Bruin Holiday Tournament
Dec. 28 -- Columbus Academy or New Albany in Bruin Holiday Tournament at Briggs
Dec. 29 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township
Dec. 29-30 -- West Jefferson Invitational