Worthington Kilbourne High School wrestling coach Brett Shaut believes his young team has made long strides since the start of the season.
"I've been coaching for 15 years and have never had a team like this," Shaut said. "They're all freshmen and sophomores, except for one junior. About half of them had never wrestled before. However, this young group has courage. They do not back down from any opportunity to compete. They are inspiring."
Junior Kyle Watson (126 pounds) and sophomores Kuric Bell (132) and Jay Thompson (220) have led the way.
Bell finished first in the Cougar Invitational on Jan. 27 at Westland and is 15-5 entering an OCC-Cardinal Division dual Thursday, Feb. 1, at Dublin Scioto.
"Kuric is coming on strong after coming back from an injury and he dominated the field at Westland," Shaut said. "He beat a tough kid from Teays Valley (Dillon Plum) 16-3 in the final and is wrestling at a different level now than earlier in the season. He's very gifted, but now he's paying attention to details.
"All of our young guys have made strides and have begun to buy into what we're coaching. My son, Lucky, has been helping and he's more on their level, I guess."
Thompson and Watson were Division I district qualifiers last season. Watson competed at 113 and finished 19-15 and Thompson competed at 195 and finished 12-10.
Thompson placed second in the Cougar Invitational, losing to Teays Valley's Josh Feyh 4-3 in the final, and is 17-6 on the season.
"Jay stays in good position and limits his mistakes," Shaut said. "He is starting to become more offensive. He's a sophomore in a big-boy weight class, so he has to remain disciplined. He really loves the sport and that makes it fun."
Watson finished third in the Cougar Invitational and is 17-7 on the season.
"Kyle is scrappy, aggressive and quick," Shaut said. "He's having a good season and turning the corner. He's listening and making adjustments. I think Kyle, Kuric and Jay are all ready to take that next step and just take off."
Sophomore Sean Hoffman placed fourth at 138 in the Cougar Invitational, as the Wolves scored 57.5 points to finish sixth behind champion Teays Valley (171.5) in the 10-team event.
"The team has made massive progress," Shaut said. "They are finding ways to score points and win some matches. We were a little banged up from mid-December to now, but we have everyone back now.
"We hope to finish the year strong. We have low numbers, but we are in great spirits. The kids want to work hard in practice and truly want to get better every practice."
After facing Scioto, the Wolves won't compete again until Feb. 15 when they conclude the regular season with a league dual at Thomas.
Swimmers, divers compete in OCC meet
The swimming and diving teams both totaled 137 points in the OCC-Cardinal meet held Jan. 26 and 27 at Thomas, but the boys team placed fifth while the girls squad finished sixth.
Nolan Wilson had the top individual finish for the boys, placing fourth in diving (269.5 points).
Jack Begley placed sixth in the 100-yard freestyle (51.68 seconds) and seventh in the 200 free (1:56.17) and John Cuozzo was sixth in the 100 butterfly (59.36). Also placing seventh were Matthew Yap in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.66) and Quinten Bartram in the 50 free (5:14.93).
The 200 medley relay (1:52.621) and 200 free relay (1:37.37) both finished fourth and the 400 free relay was fifth (3:34.72) for the Wolves, who finished behind Dublin Jerome (412), Delaware (222), Thomas (150) and Scioto (145) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (115) and Hilliard Bradley (60).
Haley Banner led the girls team, placing fourth in the 50 free (25.67) and fifth in the 100 free (56.12). Lauren Richner was fifth in the 100 breast (1:13.7) and sixth in the 50 free (26.06), and Angela Lu was sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:05.84).
In diving, Arianna Garver placed third (314.35) and Audra Gandert was fifth (258).
Kilbourne finished behind Jerome (412), Delaware (244), Thomas (204), Darby (172.5) and Scioto (154) and ahead of Bradley (79).
Boys basketball team gaining momentum
The boys basketball team is looking to carry its late-season momentum into OCC-Cardinal games at Scioto on Friday, Feb. 2, and at Delaware on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
The Wolves have won four of their past five games and are 6-12 overall and 4-5 in the league.
"We're playing our best basketball of the season right now and we want to maintain this," coach Tom Souder said. "These guys all bought in and accepted their roles. They have worked so hard and I love how they would come back to practice and get after it whether they won the night before or not.
"That's why I'm so proud of them as kids and players. They give great effort and I'm so tickled for them to have this success. This is the right time of the season to be playing well."
The Wolves' lone loss in their past five games was a 68-34 setback against league-leading Bradley on Jan. 23. They trailed just 24-22 at halftime, but were outscored 21-0 in the third quarter.
"Everything bounced (Bradley's) way in the third quarter and our kids let some calls bother them," Souder said. "We got into foul trouble and things just slipped away, but we bounced right back (in a 68-56 win over Darby on Jan. 26) and led bell to bell."
Against Darby, Gavin Baker had 16 points and Zach Wilson scored 14 as Kilbourne led 31-19 at halftime and handed the visiting Panthers just their second league loss. Jake Hirschy added 12 points and Thomas Wilson scored 10.
On Jan. 27, Kilbourne led 15-4 after the first quarter against host Granville and held on to beat the Blue Aces 46-44. Baker had 18 points and Hirschy scored eight against Granville, which dropped to 10-4.
"We were up 44-41 with 20 seconds left, but (Granville) made a 3-pointer," Souder said. "They called timeout and we figured they'd set up their press, so we were ready with our press-breaker. Zach Wilson brought the ball up the floor and we had three guys ball-side and kept Chase Brown on the back side. Chase found some space on the opposite block and Zach made a great pass. Chase made the layup and I told the kids, 'Let's get to the bus.' We felt good to get out of there with a win against a second good opponent in two days."
Girls basketball team rallies against Darby
The girls basketball team was 5-14 overall before playing host to Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 30.
After losing to Bradley 36-32 on Jan. 23, the Wolves rallied to beat Darby 42-38 on Jan. 26 to improve to 2-6 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Kilbourne will close the regular season with league games at home against Scioto on Friday, Feb. 2, and Delaware on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
Against Darby, Maggie Crozier had 15 points and Julia Taylor scored 11 as the Wolves outscored the Panthers 15-6 in the fourth quarter. Crozier went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line.
Against Bradley, the Wolves were outscored 24-15 in the middle quarters. Amya Harris led Kilbourne with eight points and Arissa Maynard added seven.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 2 -- At Dublin Scioto. The Wolves lost to the Irish 46-43 on Jan. 5.
*Feb. 6 -- At Delaware. The Wolves lost to the Pacers 52-48 on Dec. 22.
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Scioto. The Wolves lost to the Irish 52-43 on Jan. 5.
*Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Delaware. The Wolves beat the Pacers 61-46 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 2 -- *Thomas and Worthington Christian at Capri Lanes
*Feb. 7 -- New Albany at Gahanna Lanes
Feb. 1 -- At Hilliard Davidson with *Hilliard Bradley and *Hilliard Darby
Feb. 2 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North
*Feb. 3 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier at Chiller Ice Works
Feb. 4 -- Olentangy Dublin Phantoms at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 2 -- At Thomas with Watterson
*Feb. 1 -- At Scioto