The Centennial High School wrestling team has been making strides, according to coach Brian Knisley, but now the Stars are dealing with some adversity.
"We had a light competition schedule in December and we've been working hard and progressing quite well," Knisley said. "That changed a bit when we lost four kids to grades on (Jan. 26). Unfortunately, all four had been in our lineup."
Those lost to academic issues are senior Vincey Vargo (182 pounds), junior Brandon Hicks (113) and sophomores John Hewlett (132) and Xyion Newton (170).
"We've got some other guys who have been wrestling well lately, but they began the season slow so they don't have great records," Knisley said. "We've got a sophomore at 195, Michael Santiago, who is a little undersized for his weight class. But he's short and that helps him get into his opponents' legs. He uses his small stature to his advantage."
Before a tri-match with Liberty Union and Lakewood on Jan. 31, Santiago was 12-8.
Knisley also has been pleased with juniors Flaviano DiPaolo (138) and Lamont Rankin (220) and sophomore Kyle Hicks (145).
"Kyle and Flaviano have really been stepping up lately," Knisley said. "Kyle relies on his strength amd is working on his technique. If his technique catches up with his strength, look out.
"Lamont is doing very well now that he's back on track with his weight. He is progressing nicely and starting to use his technique. He gained experience last year and he's really taking steps forward."
Entering this week, Kyle Hicks was 11-14, DiPaolo was 11-16 and Rankin was 7-8. Senior Louis Hough (145) was 5-8 and junior Oscar Espino (heavyweight) was 9-14 after placing fifth in the McDonald's Invitational at Washington Court House Miami Trace on Jan. 27.
"Oscar is a first-year wrestler who is picking things up well," Knisley said. "He has a nice, solid stance and I think that has enabled him to wrestle well for a first-year guy.
"I am really enjoying this group of kids because there is no drama and they have great team chemistry. They work hard to get better and they socialize well. They just like being together so I like being with them and working with them."
The Stars will compete in the Madison Plains Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 3, and play host to Whetstone in the annual Golden Grappler on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Boys basketball team stepping to next level
Coming off losses to the top two teams in the City League-North Division, the boys basketball team won consecutive contests to improve to 8-7 overall and 5-4 in the league entering this week.
"We're playing well, but we're going to play four games (this) week and five games over nine days," coach Roosevelt Osborne III said. "Plus we lost a 6-foot-6 forward (senior Myles Spence-Bell) to grades and (senior guard) Nigel Harris to an injury, so we're a little shorthanded right now."
The Stars played Linden-McKinley on Jan. 29 in a makeup from Jan. 12 and then faced International on Jan. 30. They play at Whetstone on Friday, Feb. 2, and visit Thomas Worthington the next day.
The rematch against Linden will be at home Tuesday, Feb. 6, ahead of the regular-season finale Feb. 9 against visiting Northland.
The Stars defeated visiting Mifflin 73-61 on Jan. 23 and beat visiting East 66-62 on Jan. 26, dropping the Tigers out of a second-place tie with Northland. Entering this week, Beechcroft was 9-0 in the league, followed by Northland (8-2), East (7-3) and Centennial.
Centennial lost to Beechcroft 66-52 on Jan. 19 and fell to Northland 63-50 on Jan. 22.
"We feel like we should have beaten Northland, but we played one bad quarter and that has been the case in most of our losses this season," Osborne said. "The difference in the East game is that we played four good quarters, so if we can continue to do that, we'll be in good shape for a strong finish."
Against East, senior guard Gary Elder posted career highs in points (25), rebounds (10) and assists (7). He suffered leg cramps in the fourth quarter but senior guard Sean Tyson stepped up and scored eight of his 14 points in the final three minutes, including six in the final 1:30.
"Those two guys were our generals out there," Osborne said. "It was a big win for us, and we got strong contributions inside from Jaylen Gilbert and Ahmed Dada. Gilbert had 13 rebounds and five assists and we moved Dada up from the j.v. and he had seven rebounds, made a clutch free throw and chased down a huge rebound for us. He's a good-effort guy."
Myles Martinez added 15 points for the Stars.
Against Mifflin, Tyson had 25 , Elder had 15, Craig Burt had 13 and Martinez 10.
Girls team to close regular season
The girls basketball team concludes City-North play Friday, Feb. 2, against visiting Whetstone and finishes the regular season Monday, Feb. 5, at Jonathan Alder.
The Stars were 3-12 overall and 3-8 in the league before playing Linden on Jan. 29 and International on Jan. 30.
They picked up their third win Jan. 23, beating host Mifflin 47-44 when junior forward Shamara Bridges made two free throws with 10 seconds left and the Punchers missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Neveah Brown scored 13 points and Qiyje January added nine, and each scored five in the fourth quarter.
Centennial then lost to East 53-46 on Jan. 26 and to DeSales 74-39 the following day. Naa Dromo Korley scored 16 points against DeSales, and January added nine.
The Division I district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 4, with first-round games scheduled for Feb. 17.
Below are the coming schedules for the Centennial boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 2 -- At Whetstone. The Stars beat the Braves 81-61 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 3 -- At Thomas Worthington
*Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Linden-McKinley
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Whetstone. The Stars lost to the Braves 50-40 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 5 -- At Jonathan Alder
*Feb. 1 -- Hilliard Bradley at Sequoia Pro Bowl in makeup from Jan. 26
*Feb. 6 -- Thomas at Sequoia Pro Bowl in makeup from Jan. 5 and Jan. 17
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 3 -- City League meet at Columbus Aquatics Center
Feb. 3 -- Madison Plains Invitational
Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Whetstone