Grove City High School senior wrestler Tanner Stevens went winless in the Division I district tournament each of the past two seasons, providing him with plenty of motivation for this week.
Stevens is one of seven Greyhounds to qualify for district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Stevens entered the previous two district tournaments with high hopes of advancing, but those quickly were dashed. He is expecting a better outcome this season.
"Last year everyone was saying I could go to state and that put a lot of pressure on me, so that had something to do with me losing and choking, but this year it's my last year and I'm going to go all out," Stevens said.
Stevens finished second at 220 pounds in the Upper Arlington sectional Feb. 24. He opens district against Big Walnut's Max Lenz (28-11) in the first round.
"(Qualifying for state) would mean a lot," Stevens said. "It's been my goal since I was a freshman, trying to make it to the state tournament and possibly even placing."
Stevens, who is 36-8 on the season, reached the final at sectional but lost to Pickerington Central's Grey Brancifort 5-1. Brancifort was a key player on the Tigers' state-championship football team.
Stevens reached the final by defeating Worthington Kilbourne's Jay Thompson 4-3 in four overtimes.
"I was really tired after that match and it was a really good match," Stevens said. "It pretty much drained me for my finals match. I should have won my finals match, but it didn't go as I expected. I still took second though, so I'm pretty happy with that."
Justin Swavely will compete at district after finishing second at sectional. He lost to Dublin Coffman's Antonio Gonzalez 5-2 in the final at 138.
Swavely, who was the top seed at sectional, is 36-4 on the season and will take on Lancaster's Derrick Mitchell (15-16) in the first round at district.
Hunter Barker (34-10) finished third at sectional at 152 and will battle Hilliard Bradley's J.T. Lemmermen (26-14) in the first round at district.
Grove City's other district qualifiers are Taryn Martin (106, 19-13), James Scalf (126, 16-9), Blake Stevens (132, 26-12) and Chase Jones (160, 19-15). All finished fourth at sectional.
Martin will face Lancaster's Logan Agin (40-1), Scalf will face Olentangy's Nick Varanelli (26-13), Blake Stevens will face Dresden Tri-Valley's Austin Vensil (36-6) and Jones will face Central Crossing's Jaden Mattox (37-1) in first-round matches.
"Seven (qualifiers) is a good day," coach Jay DiMasso said. "I was happy with seven. I thought if we squeaked out the eighth spot or a couple alternates that would have been a really good day, but seven is great."
Grove City finished fifth (123.5 points) of 10 teams at sectional behind champion Coffman (212).
"We finished fifth with no champions, so a lot of work was done by guys that didn't win the tournament, but it shows there's a lot of quality effort from a larger group," DiMasso said.
Punchers knock out boys basketball team
The boys basketball team opened and closed the season with losses to Mifflin while finishing 11-12 overall.
The 15th-seeded Greyhounds lost to 29th-seeded Mifflin 69-55 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 at home. They opened with a 65-47 loss to the Punchers in the first round of the Grove City Tip-Off Classic on Dec. 1.
Senior point guard P.J. Jones led Grove City in the rematch with 20 points. Senior guard Nick Erwin had 18 points.
"We had five great seniors who put a lot of hard work into our program and you hate to have them go out on a losing note, especially how we did because we didn't play our best game and you want to be playing your best game going into the tournament," coach Greg Waits said.
Jones averaged a team-best 17.6 points and 6.2 rebounds and was named first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division.
Erwin averaged 14.9 points and was second-team all-league. Senior guard Nolen Hawkins (4.9 rebounds) was honorable mention all-league.
Players eligible to return are junior guards Chase Allmon, William Morrison and Sam Stoll, sophomore guards Cole Crager, Ben Wilhelm and Josh Wilhelm and freshman guard Brock Waits.
Ben and Josh Wilhelm are twins, and Waits is the son of coach Waits.
Grove City went 3-7 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind Pickerington North (9-1), Pickerington Central (8-2), Gahanna (5-5) and Reynoldsburg (5-5) and ahead of Lancaster (0-10).
"I'm going to go to as many (tournament) games that I can," coach Waits said. "We have to keep learning. We have to find a way to get better next year."
Girls basketball team battled inconsistency
The girls basketball team finished 7-16 overall with a 69-29 loss at seventh-seeded Upper Arlington in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 17.
The Greyhounds were seeded 35th.
"We just never established any type of consistency all year long and I don't have an answer to why," coach Dale Corbett said. "There were times where we were getting close to it where we were really starting to play well and then you'd have an injury. Those aren't excuses, we just never got into a pattern where everybody was healthy and played well."
Sophomore guard Molly Michalak averaged 11.7 points and was second-team all-league, and senior guard Yasmine Strausbaugh (7.8 points) was honorable mention all-league.
Junior guard Erin Kilmurry averaged 7.9 points.
Senior center Molly McCloskey played the latter stages of the season with a stress fracture in her left leg and eventually missed the final two games with a broken fibula.
"We got a lot better towards the end of the season," she said. "We just kept building up. It was fun for me even though we lost some games. We got better as a team throughout the season."
Other players eligible to return are juniors Grace Fisher (guard) and Alyssa Fuchs (forward) and sophomores Alexi Bapst (guard), Madison Grube (forward), Alexia Jones (guard) and Lauren Walls (guard).
Grove City went 1-9 in the OCC-Ohio to finish sixth behind co-champions Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg (9-1), Gahanna (5-5), Lancaster (3-7) and Pickerington North (3-7).
Gymnastics team competes at district
The gymnastics team closed its season by competing in the district meet Feb. 24 at Kilbourne.
The Greyhounds finished 17th (115.225) of 24 teams behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.425) as the top three teams advanced to state Friday, March 2, at Hilliard Bradley. The top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advanced to state Saturday, March 3, at Bradley.
Senior Macy Mills led the Greyhounds, finishing 40th in the all-around with a 31.45. Junior Morgan Lemponen was 61st (30.075) and senior Camille Lanese was 91st (23.3).
Other gymnasts eligible to return are juniors Kaelyn Kuder and Natalie Simmons, sophomore Bailey Bennett and freshmen Sophie Legue and Kamya Wilson.
Grove City went 3-4 in OCC-Central duals and finished with 18 points in the league to place fourth behind UA (32, 7-0), Hilliard Davidson (28, 6-1) and Marysville (24, 5-2) and ahead of Westland (16, 3-4), Central Crossing (14, 3-4), Coffman (8, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (4, 0-7).
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 11-12 overall, 3-7 (fifth) in OCC-Ohio
*Seniors lost: Nick Erwin, Nolen Hawkins, P.J. Jones, Jason Meggyesy and Dominic Reinier
*Key returnees: Brock Waits, Ben Wilhelm and Josh Wilhelm
*Record: 7-16 overall, 1-9 (sixth) in OCC-Ohio
*Seniors lost: Lauren Griffith, Molly McCloskey, Yasmine Strausbaugh and Hannah Swearingen
*Key returnees: Alexi Bapst, Erin Kilmurry and Molly Michalak
*Finishes: Fourth in OCC-Central, 17th at district
*Seniors lost: Lauran Andrews, Camille Lanese, Macy Mills, Rylie Sines and Melia Wilkins
*Key returnees: Bailey Bennett, Kaelyn Kuder and Morgan Lemponen