Peter Ackley broke into a wide smile when he realized he is among four New Albany High School wrestlers who enter the stretch run of the regular season with at least 20 wins.
"It's awesome. We lost a lot of seniors (from last year) so we had some uncertainty about how the team would look and do," said Ackley, who has competed at 182 pounds and expects to be at 170 the rest of the season. "Having a freshman (Colin Swincicki) get into that 20-win club is huge for the whole team, just our mentality. I'm definitely ahead of where I thought I might be. I've been battling injuries so I haven't been fully with the team, plus I do football and lacrosse as well so I haven't been to all the offseason stuff. But the record I have right now, I'm super-happy about it."
Ackley leads the Eagles with a 24-4 record. Daniel Rodriguez is 23-6 between 182 and 195, followed by Swincicki (113, 23-8) and Michael Zusman (138/145, 20-9).
Billy Lee (220, 16-5) and Jack Wilson (195, 15-4) are close behind.
Ackley, Lee, Rodriguez and Wilson are juniors. Zusman is a sophomore.
"Our 'upper five' (in terms of weight class) with Peter and Daniel to Jack and Billy Lee and (senior heavyweight) David (Rodriguez), I expect them to be our leaders," coach Larry Reichard said. "Colin, as a freshman, is stepping up and doing well. He helps out on the lightweight side to make sure everybody is working hard. It's been really nice this year so far."
New Albany is 2-1 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a Thursday, Feb. 8, home match against defending league champion Groveport.
Ackley, Lee and David Rodriguez are seeking their second consecutive Division I district tournament berths.
Ackley called stamina his strength, crediting that in part to his other sports.
"I have a great relationship with (Reichard) so I am always talking to him before and after practice about extra work I can get in, extra drills I can do, anything extra I can learn outside regular practice," Ackley said.
Swincicki has run cross country and played baseball for several years and took up wrestling in middle school on the advice of John Galbreath, who coaches the boys cross country team as well as middle school wrestling.
"Coming into the season I was a little nervous as a freshman wrestling seniors," Swincicki said. "I've just been trying to get better. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not worried about if I lose right now. I am trying to get better for my sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
"I've noticed that I am a lot more energized. If the other guy is tired, I notice that and use it to my advantage."
Zusman credited his success to technique but admitted he has had to adjust from the freestyle approach he uses in club wrestling during the summer.
"I personally like freestyle more because it's more interesting wrestling. You can do different moves and be more active," said Zusman, who began the year at 145 and dropped to 138 in early January. "When you do freestyle, there are lot more throws and that really helps me end matches quickly. My grandpa wrestled and he would always say he just wanted to get a fast pin to win a match and he wouldn't have to test his stamina."
Reichard did not discount one or more wrestlers reaching 30 wins within the next few weeks. New Albany's match against Groveport is the first of four duals or quads in the span of a week to end the regular season.
"We still have a lot of duals left and no real all-day events before sectional (Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial). They could get a lot more wins against good competition," Reichard said. "It's nice to rest up and heal up. We've been beating each other up the past few weeks."
Hockey team preps for CBJ Cup
The hockey team will participate in the consolation bracket of the Blue Jackets Cup this weekend, and by virtue of a fifth-place finish in the Capital Hockey Conference-Red Division, New Albany knows that it will return to the CHC-White next season.
Seeded ninth in the Blue Jackets Cup, the Eagles will play 14th-seeded Gahanna or 15th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a consolation semifinal Saturday, Feb. 10, at OhioHealth Ice Haus. The winner will play 10th-seeded Olentangy Orange, 11th-seeded Dublin Coffman, 12th-seeded DeSales or 13th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the consolation final Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Ice Haus.
New Albany is 11-19 overall and finished 6-10 with 12 points in the CHC after a 3-1 loss to St. Charles on Feb. 4. Earlier in the weekend, the Eagles lost to Watterson 6-3 on Feb. 2 and defeated Upper Arlington 6-2 on Feb. 3.
Tyler Riddle had two goals against Watterson and the Eagles' only goal against St. Charles, and Alex Arenschield had two goals and two assists against UA.
The Eagles already had clinched fifth place in the CHC-Red before last weekend. The fifth-place finisher in the CHC-Red automatically is relegated to the CHC-White the next season, changing places with the CHC-White champion.
In its 17th season, the Blue Jackets Cup includes all of the CHC's 14 teams. The championship bracket consists of the top four teams in the CHC-Red, the top three in the CHC-White and the CHC-Blue champion.
The other six teams play in the consolation bracket.
Swimmers heading to sectional meet
After two weeks off from competition following the OCC-Capital meet, the swimming teams will participate in a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 10, at Thomas.
The winner of each sectional event automatically qualifies for the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
New Albany is seeking its third consecutive sweep of the Thomas sectional champion-ships.
Divers do not compete at sectional.
The girls diving district meet will be Monday, Feb. 12, at Dublin Community Recreation Center, with the boys district meet taking place the next day at the same facility. The top four girls and five boys will advance to their respective state meets Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester. The Eagles defeated the Indians 61-50 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 10 -- At Mount Vernon
Feb. 13 -- Home vs. Columbus East
*Feb. 9 -- At Canal Winchester. The Eagles defeated the Indians 55-47 on Jan. 5.
Feb. 23 -- Home vs. 23rd-seeded Olentangy Liberty or at 11th-seeded Westerville Central in second round of Division I district tournament. The Eagles are seeded 15th.
*Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Groveport
Feb. 10 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley, DeSales and Sparta Highland
Feb. 13 -- At Thomas Worthington with Columbus Academy and Whetstone