The Groveport Madison High School wrestling team begins defense of its OCC-Capital Division championship when it visits Canal Winchester on Thursday, Jan. 11.

The Cruisers went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital last season to win their first league title in 25 years. New Albany (4-1) finished second, followed by Big Walnut (3-2), Franklin Heights (2-3), Canal Winchester (1-4) and Newark (0-5).

"We're very excited to get into league duals and see how things go," coach Brian Brison said. "We're coming off a tough tournament and have a lot of room for improvement. We've got to get busy because we've got some work to do."

The Cruisers placed 10th (73.5 points) behind champion Carrollton (263) in the 13-team Licking Valley Invitational on Jan. 6.

"We placed third in the Granville Invitational (Dec. 2) and in the Logan Invitational (Dec. 9) and were second in the Bexley Duals (Dec. 16), but this one was a tougher tournament with some traditional powerful teams in Carrollton, New Lexington and Troy Christian," Brison said. "So there were some very tough weight classes and it may have been tougher than what we'll face in the (Division I) sectional.

"Although we had only three placers, most of our guys got into situations where they wrestled for six minutes and one or two moves determined outcomes. It was a good gauge for us."

Senior Clayton Saunders went 3-1 at 120 pounds in the Licking Valley Invitational, getting pinned in the final by Troy Christian's Ethan Turner in 1 minute, 53 seconds. He enters league competition with a 15-4 record.

"Clayton really came along toward the end of last season and has gotten off to a strong start this year," Brison said. "He's on a mission and he executes. He understands situations very well."

Freshman Jake Nelson (160) went 4-1 at Licking Valley and placed third. He is 17-2.

"Jake is having an outstanding season and is a special talent," Brison said. "He's one of the best freshmen I've ever coached and his potential is through the ceiling. I think he can do some unbelievable things in the next four years and I am already expecting that from him."

Sophomore Muhamad Conteh (113) placed fourth at Licking Valley and is 10-8 and senior Andrew Bachman (170) placed sixth and is 14-5.

"Muhamad and Andrew had some good matches and I thought (sophomore) A.J. Joyce had some good moments," Brison said. "A.J. is a first-year wrestler at 220 for us and he was in some tough matches."

Boys basketball team remains competitive

The boys basketball team won a pair of overtime games and lost another close contest over the holiday break before splitting its first two contests in the 2018 portion of its schedule.

The Cruisers were 4-7 overall before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 9 and are 2-2 in the OCC-Capital entering a game Friday, Jan. 12, at Big Walnut.

"We're playing better and beginning to find our roles," coach Ryan Grashel said. "It's tough because we have a ton of talent, but we don't necessarily have all of the right pieces. We don't have a true point guard or center and we have a lot of shooting guards and wings, so we've got guys not playing their normal positions."

Entering the week, the Cruisers were 2-2 in overtime games. After losing to Olentangy 74-72 in overtime on Dec. 16, their game against Pickerington Central on Dec. 19 was suspended in the second quarter after a rim-breaking dunk by the Tigers' Adrian Nelson. The game will be completed Tuesday, Jan. 16.

The Cruisers beat New Albany 51-49 in overtime on Dec. 22 and topped Granville 72-65 in overtime the following day before losing to Teays Valley 37-36 on Dec. 28. After losing to Newark 62-50 on Jan. 5, they used balanced scoring to beat Hartley 56-50 on Jan. 6 in The Challenge at Pickerington North.

"We've been in a lot of close games in the past three weeks and we're really battling hard," Grashel said. "We shot poorly against Teays Valley, but we kept playing hard and that's what these guys have done all season. We had a great week of practice after Teays Valley and I feel good about this team moving forward.

"It's a testament to our defense than we've been so competitive because, honestly, we're shooting at a very poor percentage as a team. I'm thinking that will change. We're getting and taking good shots. We've just struggled to knock them down."

Antwon Hampton scored 18 points against Hartley and Curtis Jacobs and Teron Pittman added 16 and 10 points, respectively. Against Newark, Jacobs had 18 points, Hampton scored 12 and Pittman and Nahki Taylor both scored nine. Hampton's 10 points led the way against Teays Valley.

Since Dec. 23, the Cruisers have been playing without leading scorer Tyreese Cherry, who was averaging 14.9 points before suffering an injury against Granville. Cherry could be back against Big Walnut, Grashel said.

Hampton was averaging 13.8 points through 11 games and Jacobs was averaging 10.5.

Girls basketball team snaps losing streak

The girls basketball team used a strong second half to snap a seven-game losing streak with a 47-33 win over Whitehall on Jan. 6.

Laney White scored 17 points to lead the Cruisers, who outscored the host Rams 27-14 over the final two quarters. Reina Rhone added nine points, Brooke Reese scored eight and Melia Walder scored seven for Groveport, which was 3-10 overall before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 9.

The Cruisers, who lost to Newark 73-24 on Jan. 4, are 1-4 in the OCC-Capital entering a home game against Big Walnut on Friday, Jan. 12.

White was averaging 10.2 points through 13 games.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 12 -- At Big Walnut

Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central. Completion of game suspended Dec. 19.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Big Walnut. The Cruisers lost to the Golden Eagles 67-17 on Dec. 5.

BOWLING

*Jan. 11 -- Thomas Worthington at Capri Lanes

*Jan. 12 -- Columbus Academy at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl

*Jan. 16 -- Hilliard Darby at Game of Western Bowl

SWIMMING & DIVING

Jan. 13 -- Teays Valley Invitational at Pickaway County YMCA

WRESTLING

*Jan. 11 -- At Canal Winchester

*League contest