As a result of its depth and senior leadership, the Whetstone High School wrestling team has been much more competitive this season than 11th-year coach Tom Jones anticipated.
All five seniors on the Braves' roster won matches against Marion-Franklin and Northland on Jan. 25, as Whetstone improved to 4-0 in City League duals with a 60-11 win over the Red Devils and a 60-12 win over the Vikings.
With those victories, the Braves advanced to the City dual championships Thursday, Feb. 1, at West. They will face Mifflin in one semifinal and West will face East in the other. The winners compete for the championship and the losers meet in the third-place match.
"Although we began the season with 37 boys in the program and only have about half of them still with us, we have pretty good depth compared to most other City schools," Jones said. "We have a handful of guys with experience and talent and a bunch of others with heart and determination and a willingness to challenge themselves and their opponents."
Senior Ibrahim Sesay is 16-5 at 170 pounds. He had a pair of pins in the Jan. 25 tri-match and then finished second in the Cougar Invitational on Jan. 27 at Westland.
"(Sesay) is an intelligent and physical wrestler and a great athlete," Jones said. "He's having a strong season, although he lost a few he shouldn't have lost and would be the first to tell you that. But he has a strong drive and is looking on improving his postseason finishes."
Last season, Sesay finished 32-12 at 160 pounds, won a City title and was a Division I district qualifier.
"I think I should have only one loss on the season so far," said Sesay, who was named first-team all-City League-North Division and all-district in Division II as a defensive back for the football team last fall. "Sometimes we don't wrestle our best. Every match can't be a perfect match, but in my mind, I should have only lost one match so far."
Sesay said that while football and wrestling have similarities in footwork and other aspects, he sees major differences between the sports as well.
"To me, the big difference between football and wrestling is conditioning," he said. "You might be fit for football, but if you're not fit for wrestling, I promise you it will kill you. There isn't 30 seconds between plays. It's more than just fatigue in wrestling. You've got legs moving, eyes watering and burning and the coach is yelling at you to go, and you're like, 'Man, how are you going to do this?'
"But it's mind over matter. You know you've got to find a way. It's man vs. man and that isn't always the case in football."
Seniors Chase Thompson (152) and Gerardo Gutierrez (220) also earned two pins in the Jan. 25 tri-match, and seniors Kalman Buterbaugh (160) and Dan Kasprovic (heavyweight) both went 2-0 with a pair of forfeits. Gutierrez and sophomore Ford Buterbaugh (132) both registered pins against Marion-Franklin in 15 seconds.
Also producing two pins were sophomore Hassan Sesay (145) and freshman Darric McClinton (138).
McClinton is 10-11 after placing second in the Cougar Invitational. Hassan Sesay (14-15) and Kalman Buterbaugh (12-8) both placed fourth at Westland, where the Braves finished seventh (57) behind champion Teays Valley (171.5) in a 10-team field.
Gutierrez is 9-3, Thompson is 11-8, sophomore Preston Buterbaugh (145) is 9-3 and junior Mike Woodard (182/195) is 13-8.
"I think we're doing well as a team," Ibrahim Sesay said. "I have tried to be an inspirational leader for the young guys. I can't wrestle for them. I can provide some support verbally during matches and physically during practices by helping them with certain moves. I have a feeling we're going to do well in the City (tournament Feb. 17 at Mifflin)."
In last year's City tournament, the Braves finished second (191) behind Walnut Ridge (202.5). Rounding out the top six were West (189), Mifflin (149), South (98.5) and Marion-Franklin (98).
"I think a lot of that will be determined when grades come out," Jones said. "I think we're in pretty good shape with (grades). Mifflin and Walnut Ridge should be near the top again in the City and I'm hoping we'll be right there as well."
Girls bowlers post key league win
The girls bowling team posted a key win over Northland on Jan. 22 to remain atop the Ohio High School Bowling Conference-C Division standings in its quest to win a fourth consecutive league title.
Alea Millington-Fuqua rolled a 348 two-game series to lead the Braves to a 1,686-1,646 win over the Vikings, as Whetstone improved to 8-0 in the league. Northland fell to 5-2 and was in third place in the league behind Worthington Christian (6-1) entering the week.
Whetstone fell to Big Walnut 1,733-1,693 in a non-league match Jan. 23 and was 12-1 overall entering the week. The Braves had a league match against International on Jan. 30 and non-league matches against Olentangy on Jan. 29 and Linden-McKinley on Jan. 31.
Through 13 matches, Abbi Swank had a team-high 175.3 game average, followed by Lindsay Arnold (153.2), Millington-Fuqua (136.9) and Allison Weeks (130.6).
The boys team was 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the COHSBC-C entering the week and played league matches Jan. 29 against Haugland Learning Center and Jan. 30 against International before a non-league match against Linden on Jan. 31.
The Braves were tied with Worthington Christian for third in the league, behind Northland (8-0) and Teays Valley (7-2). They lost to Northland 2,064-1,981 on Jan. 22 and fell to Big Walnut 2,294-2,132 the following day.
Through 12 matches, Joshua Roeder had a team-best 198.1 average, followed by Davis Kleen (186.9), Dalton Daugherty (167.8) and Victor Waitkus (160.8).
Girls basketball team seeks to bounce back
The girls basketball team is looking to finish the regular season on a high note.
The Braves lost to Northland 62-29 in a City-North game Jan. 26 and were 8-8 overall and 6-5 in the league before playing Mifflin on Jan. 30. They entered the contest against the Punchers on a five-game losing streak.
Whetstone went 7-3 in the 2017 portion of its schedule and defeated Centennial 50-40 on Jan. 9 before the skid began.
"We need to play better defensively and we have struggled on offense in the rematches against City teams," senior forward Whitney Staggs said. "(City opponents) are taking away our first options and making it difficult and we have way too many turnovers.
"(In a 37-15 loss to Linden on Jan. 19), we only took (12 field-goal attempts). We'd pass and pass and pass and then get a turnover."
Staggs became the third player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points during a 41-39 loss to East on Jan. 18. She had 20 points in the game.
"That was a goal that I've pursued for four years, so it was a really cool achievement that I couldn't have reached without the help of my teammates, parents and coaches," Staggs said. "They stopped the game and made an announcement and the game ball is on display in the trophy case in the hallway at the school."
The Braves play host to International on Thursday, Feb. 1, before concluding league play Friday, Feb. 2, at Centennial. They then will close out the regular season Saturday, Feb. 3, at home against Independence.
Whetstone lost to Beechcroft 58-46 in a league game Jan. 23, despite getting 24 points from Staggs. Hannah Rizzi added eight points and Macy Staggs scored seven.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 1 -- At International in makeup from Jan. 12
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Centennial. The Braves lost to the Stars 81-61 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 3 -- Home vs. Independence
*Feb. 6 -- Home vs. International
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. International in makeup from Jan. 12. The Braves beat the Lions 62-47 on Dec. 5.
*Feb. 2 -- At Centennial. The Braves beat the Stars 50-40 on Jan. 9.
Feb. 3 -- Home vs. Independence
Feb. 5 -- Marion Harding at Old Southland Lanes
Feb. 7 -- Reynoldsburg at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 3 -- City League meet at Columbus Aquatics Center
Feb. 1 -- Mifflin in semifinal of City dual championships at West. Winner faces East or West in championship match, while loser competes in third-place match.
*Feb. 7 -- At Centennial