The goal of making the Division I state tournament remains alive for Reynoldsburg High School senior wrestler Thomas Baire.
That might not have seemed possible a few months ago after Baire was given an explanation for the pain he was experiencing in his right knee.
"My (ACL) was completely gone and I had to get surgery," he said. "They (pointed to) where it's supposed to be and it's not even there."
With the aid of "a very expensive brace" and one last chance, Baire hopes he's back on track after not competing in his first match this season until early January.
"(The brace) is meant to grip to your skin, so you have to put on a sleeve so you don't risk injuring the other person or tearing up the mats," he said. "So it can get really tight. You just have to adjust with it and go with it."
Despite the return of Baire, the Raiders lost their final three OCC-Ohio Division duals and finished 1-4 in the league. After losing to Gahanna 46-22 on Jan. 25, Reynoldsburg fell to Lancaster 55-21 and to Grove City 45-31 on Feb. 8.
Lancaster earned its fourth consecutive league title.
Baire, who won 14 of his first 18 matches at heavyweight, is one of just two seniors in the regular lineup along with Cameron Simpson (160 pounds). Asher Frederick (120) is the program's only other senior.
"Our team has a lot of new people on it who are learning to love the sport," Baire said. "I hope to go to states. Last year, I got to districts and wasn't ready."
Baire finished 22-14 last season, going 0-2 in the district tournament.
The Raiders closed the regular season Feb. 10 by placing 12th (68.5) in the 16-team All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome behind champion Upper Arlington (237). Baire won his opening match but lost in the second round and defaulted his next match in the consolation bracket because of a concussion.
Coach Jon Forgy hopes Baire will be able to return for a sectional Feb. 24 at UA.
Baire got a big boost shortly after his return when he captured a title in the Hamilton Township Invitational on Jan. 20.
Freshman Dalton Hall, according to Forgy, provides a solid backup to Baire after starting at heavyweight when Baire was out.
"It's been nice to have (Baire) back on the mat," Forgy said. "He's really come along in the short time since he (came) back at the start of January. Thomas really showed that he was back at the Hamilton Township tournament, where he was champion. Any time you get a district qualifier back in the lineup, that's a good thing."
Girls basketball team earns OCC title share
With a 69-39 victory over Pickerington North on Feb. 9, the girls basketball team secured a share of the OCC-Ohio championship with Pickerington Central at 9-1.
The Raiders were 16-5 overall and had won three in a row before playing Zanesville on Feb. 12.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, fourth-seeded Reynoldsburg will play host to 44th-seeded Briggs in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
The Raiders earned a season sweep of North after winning the first-round league matchup 54-35 on Jan. 5. Jalynda Salley had 18 points and Uju Ezeudu and Destiny Fields both scored 12 in the rematch.
Coach Jack Purtell likes the trajectory of his team heading into the postseason.
"This is the time of year we practice all year for, when we get into the tournament," he said. "That's the focus from day one. There's going to be highs and lows, and you're going to have both. We want to get into the tournament and go out and compete and hopefully win another district title."
Boys team building momentum for tourney
The boys basketball team has one final tune-up before the postseason when it plays host to Lancaster on Friday, Feb. 16.
The Raiders upset the state's fifth-ranked team, Pickerington North, 53-52 on Feb. 9 to improve to 4-5 in the OCC-Ohio. They were 13-7 overall before playing Hartley on Feb. 12.
Tre Williams scored 23 points against North. The Raiders led 38-27 heading into the final period and held off a late rally attempt.
"It was a good win," coach Scott Davis said. "We had a really nice lead and we only made five of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter. ... They didn't have much of an answer for Tre, and we made plays."
With a 42-36 victory over Central Crossing on Feb. 6, Reynoldsburg snapped a two-game skid as Williams had 14 points, Ben Fort scored nine and Jamiel Goliday added eight.
That game marked the fewest points the Raiders had allowed entering the week.
Reynoldsburg received the 10th seed for the Division I district tournament and will open Feb. 24 at home against 40th-seeded Thomas Worthington.
The Raiders are the second-highest seed in their bracket, behind top-seeded North.
Swimming teams prepare for district
The boys and girls swimming teams will compete in the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 17, at Ohio University.
The top two finishers in each event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded in each event based on district times statewide.
On Feb. 10, the Raiders competed in a sectional at Upper Arlington.
For the boys, Harvey Culbert was runner-up in the 200-yard individual medley (1 minute, 58.4 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (59.12) and joined Jared Davis, Nate Gaver and Tanner Wooddell on the first-place 200 freestyle relay (1:30.65). Davis added a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly (55.5), and the 200 medley relay of Culbert, Davis, Gaver and TaJah Reynolds also was third (1:41.87).
Kasey Lichtner finished ninth in the 100 breast (1:10.73) and 12th in the 50 free (25.69) to lead the girls team.
Bowling squads prep for postseason
The boys and girls bowling teams will have more than a week off between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the Division I postseason.
The boys sectional is Feb. 23 and the girls sectional is Feb. 24, both at HP Lanes.
Before facing Marysville on Feb. 13 and Bexley on Feb. 14, the boys were 6-6 overall, 6-4 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-B Division and 1-3 in the OCC-Central. Logan Gapen was leading the Raiders in league average at 176.6, followed by Michael Neff-Young (164.1), Tyler Robinson (161.3) and Michael Brooks (159.0).
The girls were 1-10 overall, 1-8 in the COHSBC-B and 0-3 in the OCC-Central before facing Marysville on Feb. 13 and Pickerington North on Feb. 14.
Tyra Hammond was leading the Raiders in league average at 130.8, followed by Missy Ross (117.2), Halle Pennycuff (113.6) and Kimmie Shook (110.6).
Raiders athletes select colleges
Two Reynoldsburg athletes announced their college commitments Feb. 7.
Mackenzie Huey committed to play softball at Mount Vernon Nazarene and Elijah Ratliff committed to play football for Kent State.
Also recognized by the school was football player Joe Boggs, who committed to Ball State during the early signing period in December.
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball and girls basketball teams:
*Feb. 16 -- Home vs. Lancaster. The Raiders beat the Golden Gales 66-44 on Jan. 11.
Feb. 17 -- Home vs. 44th-seeded Briggs in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays host to 49th-seeded Whitehall in second round Feb. 23. The Raiders are the fourth seed.
*League contestAt a glance
Below are the district qualifiers with sectional time and district seeds for the Reynoldsburg boys and girls swimming teams:
BOYS -- Harvey Culbert: 100 breast (59.12, second), 200 IM (1:58.4, fourth); Jared Davis: 100 fly (55.5, 15th); Nate Gaver: 50 free (22.63, 21st), 100 free (50.16, 29th); 200 free relay (1:30.65, fifth); 200 medley relay (1:41.87, 10th)
GIRLS -- Kasey Lichtner: 100 breast (1:10.73, 19th)