Senior Ibrahim Sesay will be looking to follow the path of 2017 graduate Justin Rodriguez when he and three of his Whetstone High School wrestling teammates compete in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Perrysburg.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualify for the state tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Last season, Rodriguez was Whetstone's first state qualifier since 1978. He went 0-2 at state at 120 pounds after placing fourth at district.
"To have a good chance to qualify for state, it's almost a prerequisite to at least reach a sectional final like Justin did last year," coach Tom Jones said. "(Sesay) won a sectional championship and has set himself up for the best path to state. He is the lone wrestler we have who was a district qualifier last year, so he has experienced that."
Sesay won the 160-pound title in a sectional Feb. 24 at Whitehall, beating Mansfield Madison's David Gilbert 15-9 in the final. He went 3-0 at sectional, becoming the program's first sectional champion since Matt Tuttle won back-to-back titles in 2007 and '08, and improved to 27-5 on the season.
"(Sesay) took down (Gilbert) seven times in the final and was dominant on his feet all day," Jones said. "He also had some good escapes during the day and was not really pushed."
Joining Sesay at district will be senior Daniel Kasprovic (heavyweight) and sophomores Johnny Kincaid (120) and Jack Zimmerman (126). All three placed fourth at sectional. Kasprovic is 7-8 on the season, Kincaid is 10-17 and Zimmerman is 4-27.
Placing fifth at sectional and serving as district alternates are senior Kenneth Thompson (152, 14-15), junior Mike Woodard (195, 22-12) and sophomores Preston Buterbaugh (138, 9-8) and Hassan Sesay (145, 21-17).
Sophomore Ford Buterbaugh (132, 11-23) placed sixth. Also competing was senior Kalman Buterbaugh (170, 15-15).
The Braves finished sixth (87.5 points) in the nine-team sectional, behind champion Ashland (304).
Girls bowlers, Vokac set for district
Abbi Swank overcame a slow start in the Division I sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes to help the girls bowling team qualify for the district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
Swank rolled a 520 (123-231-166) series as the Braves finished 11th (2,945) of 37 teams, behind champion Gahanna (3,642). The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.
Swank finished 12th overall of 208 competitors.
"We were in our highest sectional positioning ever (eighth) entering the Bakers," coach Larry Howell said. "But we're not disappointed with finishing 11th. We struggled in the Bakers, but the girls bowled pretty well overall. What I liked was that when Abbi had a rough start, the others picked her up until she caught fire in the second game. She had a 520 despite the slow start and the fact that she left pins on the alley in her third game."
Alea Millington-Fuqua rolled a 447 to tie for 40th, followed by Lindsay Arnold (tied for 49th, 435) and Noa Leslie (53rd, 430). Also competing were Assiatou Diallo, Allison Weeks and Carrie Mullins.
"We used seven bowlers because (starter) Sabrina (Vedovato) was sick and still posted a pretty good number," Howell said. "I was pretty pleased, but now it gets tougher."
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 9 (boys) and March 10 (girls) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The boys team will be represented at district by junior Nathan Vokac, who rolled a 493 at sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes to place 45th of 220 competitors and earn the final individual district-qualifying spot.
Whetstone finished 23rd (3,108) of 38 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (3,836).
Also competing were Amein Diallo (82nd, 452), Davis Kleen (88th, 445), Dalton Daugherty (tied for 105th, 425) and Victor Waitkus (tied for 126th, 378).
Boys basketball team to face Golden Bears
Seeded 47th in the Division I district tournament, the boys basketball team will open the postseason Friday, March 2, at second-seeded Upper Arlington in a second-round game.
The Braves, who are 2-20, had a first-round bye and haven't played since Feb. 15 when they lost at Briggs 69-38. The Golden Bears are 22-1 and are led by senior guard Dane Goodwin, a Notre Dame signee who is averaging 23.4 points.
The winner plays 14th-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 23rd-seeded Northland in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
City titles highlight swimming season
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams turned in another strong year, as both won City League championships.
The boys won their sixth City title in a row, scoring 123 points on Feb. 3 at Columbus Aquatics Center to finish ahead of Centennial (109), Eastmoor Academy (22) and Beechcroft (21), and the girls won their fifth consecutive league title, scoring 124 points to finish ahead of Centennial (95), Eastmoor (39) and Beechcroft (17).
Neither team scored in the Division I district meet that concluded Feb. 17 at Ohio University.
For the boys team, seniors David Maston and Francisco Soto, junior Jake Marshall and freshman Will Ave placed 20th in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1 minute, 35.02 seconds) and the 200 medley relay of sophomore Alex Marcum, Marshall, Soto and Maston finished 26th (1:51.44).
For the girls team, seniors Abi Schaefer, Bryn Van Dommelen, Rebeka Spulgis and Mary Dougherty finished 26th in the 200 free relay (1:51.79) and 29th in the 200 medley relay (2:11.3).
The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically qualified for the state meet Feb. 23 and 24, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times statewide.
In a Division I sectional Feb. 10 at Upper Arlington, the boys team finished 10th (38) of 13 teams, behind champion UA (327), and the girls team finished 11th (20) of 15 teams, behind champion UA (328).
Girls basketball team to lose top players
The girls basketball team is hoping a year of experience will pay dividends next season.
The Braves, who were seeded 39th in the Division I district tournament and lost at 19th-seeded Logan 55-19 in the first round Feb. 17 to finish 11-10 overall, are losing five seniors, including two of their top players in forward Whitney Staggs and point guard Haylee Thomas-Speigle.
Staggs averaged 19.7 points and 9.4 rebounds and was named first-team all-league for Whetstone, which finished 9-5 in the City League-North Division to place third behind Northland (14-0) and Linden-McKinley (11-3) and ahead of Beechcroft and Mifflin (both 7-7), Centennial and East (both 4-10) and International (0-14).
Thomas-Speigle (3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists) and freshman center Macy Staggs (6.9 points, 9.9 rebounds) both were honorable mention all-league.
"Going from 6-17 overall last season to 11-10 and going from sixth in the league to third, I am extremely happy with the direction the girls are headed," first-year coach Tori Ruffin said. "I'm happy with the progress we made, but I do believe we could have done better. As a coach, I am never satisfied or content."
The other seniors are Sierra Bell (center), Yonna Coleman (guard) and Hannah Rizzi (guard).
Among those expected to return are Macy Staggs, junior Maryianna Lacy (guard), sophomores Lauren Armstrong (forward), Rain Jones (guard) and Brianna Mabry (forward) and freshmen Grace Brigle (guard), Megan Harrison (forward) and Amelia Morris (guard).
@Brad_ThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 11-10 overall, 9-5 (third) in City-North
*Seniors lost: Sierra Bell, Yonna Coleman, Hannah Rizzi, Whitney Staggs and Haylee Thomas- Speigle
*Key returnees: Lauren Armstrong, Maryianna Lacy, Amelia Morris and Macy Staggs
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- First in City, 10th at sectional, did not score at district; Girls -- First in City, 11th at sectional, did not score at district
*Seniors lost: Boys -- David Maston and Francisco Soto; Girls -- Mary Dougherty, Clarisse Hoenshell, Abi Schaefer, Rebeka Spulgis and Bryn Van Dommelen
*Key returnees: Boys -- Will Ave, Alex Marcum and Jake Marshall; Girls -- Emilie Johnson, Carrie Legg and Hannah Schaefer