Westerville Central High School wrestlers Cody Mayes and Nick DeRose enter the Division I district tournament looking to earn their first state berths.
Both also will help show Zeke Healy the ropes as he tries to conclude his freshman season on the state's biggest stage.
Central opened the postseason in a 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at Marysville, and Healy, Mayes and DeRose were the only Warhawks to earn a top-four finish to advance to district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby.
At district, the top four in each weight class qualify for state.
"The three that got through are definitely the three that we thought had the best chance of getting through," coach Josh Schmitz said. "We were a couple matches away from doubling with what we have gotten through, so it was a good day."
Healy (160 pounds) and DeRose (220) led the Warhawks at sectional, as each finished third.
Healy, who is 25-12 on the season, will face Reynoldsburg's Cameron Simpson in the first round at district. DeRose, a junior, is 30-8 and opens district against Hilliard Bradley's Issa Khalil.
Mayes, a senior who is 35-8, finished fourth at sectional at 152 and will face Newark's Hunter Thornsberry in the first round at district.
"He's pretty good," Mayes said of Thornsberry. "I just have to do what I do and be quick on those shots and blocking."
Mayes' weight class features Marysville's Jake Marsh, who is a three-time state qualifier and is 37-2 this season. He has committed to Princeton.
"My weight class is really tough," Mayes said. "I knew it was tough. I was prepared and went at it."
DeRose and Mayes will be competing in their second district tournament after both went 2-2 last season. Mayes competed at 145 and finished 32-11, and DeRose wrestled at 220 and finished 25-27.
"I'm just happy that I made it to district," Mayes said. "I hope to go to state as always, but at least improve from what I did last year."
Schmitz called freshman Gary Steele "a surprise" after he finished fifth at sectional at 126 and is a district alternate.
Senior Ian Manahan (heavyweight) and freshman Tate Sterling (145) finished sixth, and the Warhawks finished seventh (71 points) behind champion Marysville (279).
"It was definitely not an easy sectional," Schmitz said. "Marysville was there, which is one of the top teams in the district. ... Central Crossing has a bunch of solid guys. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but hopefully the tough sectional got them ready to go for district (because) it doesn't get any easier."
Two girls swimmers compete at state
Senior Annie McNenny and sophomore Macey Swearingen closed the season for the girls swimming and diving team by competing in the Division I state meet Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Swearingen, who was competing in her second state meet, finished 14th in the 100-yard backstroke (57.64 seconds). She accounted for the Warhawks' three points, as they finished 51st behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
"Whenever you can come back and swim the second day, you've had a good state meet," coach Ron Staab said.
In her first state meet, McNenny finished 20th in the 100 butterfly (57.89) and 23rd in the 500 freestyle (5:14.15). Her postseason was hampered a year ago after she developed mononucleosis.
"It was a good experience for Annie to get to the state meet, which is one of the best in the country, in two events. That's not shabby. That's a good performance," Staab said.
Central finished 11th (93.5) at district Feb. 17 at Ohio University behind champion Upper Arlington (274) as 30 teams scored. The Warhawks were third (158) of 15 teams at sectional Feb. 10 at Thomas Worthington behind champion New Albany (401).
In the OCC-Buckeye Division meet Jan. 27 at Thomas, Central finished fourth (182.5) behind Olentangy Liberty (279), Olentangy (273.5) and Olentangy Orange (186) and ahead of Westerville North (161) and Westerville South (145).
Kaden Jacob led the boys team at district, finishing 13th in diving (301.35) on Feb. 13 at Dublin Community Recreation Center.
Central finished 28th (4) behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored. At sectional, Central finished 12th (36) of 16 teams behind champion DeSales (349).
The Warhawks finished sixth (73) in the league meet behind Liberty (400.5), Orange (259), Olentangy (210.5), North (163) and South (142).
Hickman reaches 1,000 career points
Senior boys basketball player Thomas Hickman achieved a career milestone while leading the 11th-seeded Warhawks to a 47-39 win over 32nd-seeded Delaware in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 24 at home.
Hickman reached 1,000 career points on a basket in the lane with 4:51 remaining in the game. His teammates greeted him near midcourt following the basket.
"It was really cool," he said. "I was just grateful that I could be in this position and it's because of them with all the hard work. They push me in practice every day."
He finished with a game-high 21 points despite playing most of the second half with a bandage above his right eye. He suffered a cut after colliding with an opponent early in the third quarter.
"I reminded him he's going to get a ball with 1,000 points on it and the result of the game on it, and I told him how bad that would have looked if we lost this game," coach Donovon Barrett said. "He would have been disappointed because he's been here and done that. He just stayed the course in this game and toward the end made enough plays to win the game."
The Warhawks are 16-7 and play host to 24th-seeded Whitehall in the second round Thursday, March 1, with the winner playing 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 37th-seeded Watkins Memorial in a semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined.
The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Brooks qualifies for third state meet
Junior gymnast Gianna Brooks qualified for her third state meet by finishing seventh in the all-around (35.05) and tying for second on vault (9.15) at district Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne.
"I'm very proud of her for not letting the rough start on (uneven) bars get her down," said coach Shea Stammen, who noted Brooks fell while competing on bars. "I knew she was upset, but I told her we can't change that routine and that she just needed to put it behind her and hit her other events."
Last season at state, Brooks tied for 18th in the all-around (35.325), which included a 13th-place finish on vault (9.225).
At district, the top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advanced to state Saturday, March 3, at Bradley. The top three teams advanced to state Friday, March 2, at Bradley.
Central finished 16th (119.2) of 24 teams behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.425).
Torie Cochran finished 67th in the all-around (29.025), followed by Kylie Nelson (27.625, 71st), Abigail Ring (26.1, 83rd) and Katlyn Alexander (22.7, 92nd).
"The team as a whole had a great finish on floor and vault," Stammen said. "It was awesome seeing them hit their routines and they had such high energy and big smiles. It was a great district meet for us."
Bowling teams advance to district
The boys and girls bowling teams will compete in the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
The defending state champion boys team rolled a 3,836 to win the 38-team sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, ahead of second-place Gahanna (3,609).
Zach Gonzalez was eighth of 220 bowlers with a 567 three-game series. Ryan O'Connor was 19th (543), followed by Alex Fleetwood (408, two games, tied for 110th), Devon Richardson (383, two games, 124th), Cameron Gonce (326, two games, tied for 138th) and Nick Owsiak (166, one game, 186th).
The girls team finished fourth (3,151) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes behind champion Gahanna (3,642) as the top 16 teams advanced to district.
Jocelyn Grimsley was 26th of 208 bowlers with a 482 three-game series. Reace Gonzalez tied for 40th (447), followed by Madison Owsiany (368, two games, 99th), Summer Snyder (295, two games, 137th) and Kirsten Miller (268, two games, 146th).
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The boys compete March 9 and the girls compete the next day.
Girls basketball team caps successful season
After going 1-22 last season, the girls basketball team made giant strides under first-year coach Jim Morgan, finishing 15-8 overall with a 52-44 loss to visiting and 23rd-seeded Liberty in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 20.
Senior forward Casey George led the 11th-seeded Warhawks with 13 points. Junior forward Ashley Kramer scored 11.
"We had an outstanding season," said Morgan, whose was named OCC-Buckeye Coach of the Year. "To go from one win to 15 is a great season. This (loss) doesn't define our season. It was a great year and our seniors were great."
Junior forward Najayah Shepherd averaged a team-best 8.4 points and was named second-team all-league. George averaged 8.2 points and was special mention all-league, and junior point guard Mikayla Brenning was honorable mention all-league.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Erin Davis (forward), Abby Pence (guard) and Kennis Sparks (guard) and sophomore Mabinty Kebe (guard).
The Warhawks went 6-4 in the league to tie Liberty for second behind South (10-0) and ahead of Olentangy (5-5), North (3-7) and Orange (0-10).
"We have a nice foundation now where Central has some respect," Morgan said. "It's going to be a challenge for the underclassmen to keep building it."
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 15-8 overall, 6-4 (tied for second) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Casey George, Brianna Smith, Grace Stille and Sam Wyatt
*Key returnees: Michayla Brenning, Ashley Kramer and Najayah Shepherd
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Sixth in OCC-Buckeye, 12th at sectional, 28th at district; Girls -- Fourth in OCC-Buckeye, third at sectional, 11th at district, 51st at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Sam Reyes and Austin Smith; Girls -- Annie McNenny, Chloe Minton and Emma Pierce
*Key returnees: Boys -- Adam Aziz, Kaden Jacob and Riley Jacob; Girls -- Kaila Aaron, Sophie Antonetz, D'Nisa Oocumma and Macey Swearingen