Senior Chaz Wilson will represent the Groveport Madison High School boys bowling team in the Division I state tournament Friday, March 9, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
After struggling with the lane setup at HP Lanes in the sectional Feb. 23, Wilson found the conditions more to his liking March 3 in the district tournament at the same venue.
"This was just a little better," Wilson said after rolling a 653 (171-214-268) to place second of 105 competitors, an improvement of nearly 200 pins from sectional. "I'm so happy to be going back to states and I'm hoping I can heat it up again. I went (to state) as a freshman with the entire team. Even though we bowled poorly, it was a good experience."
Wilson rolled a 455 at sectional when Groveport placed 16th to earn the final team berth for district. At district, the Cruisers finished 13th (3,229) of 16 teams as Westerville Central (3,907), Marion Harding (3,645) and Whitehall (3,580) qualified for state.
Wilson had a 197 game average during the regular season, which equates to a 591 series average. So when he posted a 171 in the first game, he told himself to relax.
"(At sectional) I had a 147-172-136, so my first game (at district) wasn't great, but it was better," he said. "I just kept my head on straight and told myself every game would get better this time."
Wilson was comforted by the lane shifts between each game.
"The first lane was dry like last week and I had a 172," he said. "But when we moved to the right for the next game, there were a couple of two-handers with really high revs and that pushed the oil back to the middle where I was playing. When we moved again, there were even more two-handers and there was a lot of oil in the middle and I was able to string together a lot of strikes."
Wilson earned the second of three individual state-qualifying berths, with district champion Cameron Singer of Northland (656) and Olentangy Liberty's Daniel Valz (596) earning the other two.
Also competing for Groveport were Tyler Miracle (60th, 443), Corey Claprood (61st, 441), Lonnie Stuckey (67th, 413) and Stephen Snyder (71st, 387).
Representing the girls team at district was junior Leah Deaner, who finished 18th of 102 competitors with a 488 (161-160-167). Delaware's Kelsey Rohrer earned the final individual state-qualifying spot with a 550.
Deaner had advanced to district by finishing eighth (539) in the sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes.
Concussion derails Nelson on mats
The wrestling team's final hope of producing a Division I state qualifier this season ended when freshman Jake Nelson suffered a concussion in the first period of his 170-pound consolation semifinal in the district tournament held March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.
"Jake had a concussion when his head hit the mat after being taken down by (Westerville North's Mitch Potterf)," coach Brian Brison said. "He was not able to continue."
After losing the match by injury default, Nelson had to forfeit his fifth-place match against Marysville's Nathan Dewitt. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
Nelson went 3-3 at district to finish the season 39-9. He defeated Mifflin's Eric Shaw 12-0 in the first round before losing to Delaware's Mason Sutandar 5-4. He bounced back by pinning Pickerington Central's Silas Pearson in 3 minutes, 43 seconds and beat Licking Heights' Cody Wilson 9-3 to reach his consolation semifinal.
"He wrestled a phenomenal tournament up to that point," Brison said. "Jake has the uncanny ability to rise to the occasion in big matches and the pressure only seems to make him better. It's unfortunate it ended like that."
Also competing for the Cruisers were senior Clayton Saunders (113) and sophomore A.J. Joyce (220).
Saunders went 1-2 to finish 28-12. After being pinned by Lancaster's Jacob Reed in the first round, he defeated Watkins Memorial's Chase Dorsey 2-0 before getting pinned by Dresden Tri-Valley's Kaleb Long.
Joyce went 0-2 to finish 15-14. He was pinned by Logan's Brady Garren and Chillicothe's Cole Maxson.
Groveport scored 11 points at district to finish 32nd behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Boys team struggled to win close games
The boys basketball team finished 8-15 overall, but the Cruisers weren't far off from having a significantly better record.
Groveport, which was seeded 35th in the Division I district tournament and lost to fourth-seeded Westerville North 67-56 in the first round Feb. 24, went 4-7 in games decided by four points or fewer.
The Cruisers were 2-2 in overtime games and were outscored 1,344-1,311 for the season. They allowed an average of 58.4 points while scoring an average of 57.
"I am very proud of our guys, especially our seniors, for sticking with the process," coach Ryan Grashel said. "We lost several close games and it would've been easy to give up, but they kept fighting and working to get better."
The Cruisers' roster included five seniors in guards Tyreese Cherry, Jhaiquez Ford, Antwon Hampton, Curtis Jacobs and Teron Pittman.
"This is a great group of young men that were leaders," Grashel said. "They have experienced success both as a team and individually throughout their careers. I expect each of them to continue their success after high school and hope for nothing but the best."
The Cruisers finished 4-6 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth, behind Newark (10-0) and co-runners-up Big Walnut, Canal Winchester and New Albany (all 5-5). Franklin Heights (1-9) finished last.
Hampton averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-best 1.4 steals and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Cherry averaged 13.2 points and was second-team all-league, Jacobs averaged 9.4 points and was special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district, and Pittman averaged 8.9 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Ford also averaged 4.1 rebounds to share the team lead with Hampton.
"We definitely lose experience because our seniors played the majority of the minutes," Grashel said. "However, we have a great group of young players that are hungry for their chance and will work hard to get there."
Juniors Deahmi Guinn (guard/forward), Javon Miller (guard/forward) and Nakhi Taylor (guard) and sophomore Elijah Monroe (guard) had significant playing time this season. Taylor scored 12 points in the loss to North.
Also expected back are junior guards Jaylin Chaney, Martez Knight and Damon Powell.
"Nakhi will definitely be our focal point because he will be going into his third year of varsity, but we won't have to lean on him for everything because of the young talent around him," Grashel said. "Javon and Deahmi also will play big roles. Our j.v. team finished 14-7 and the freshmen went 19-3, so we have an abundance of talent coming through our program and it will be a competitive situation to get on the floor."
@Brad_ThisWeekAt a glance
*Record: 8-15 overall, 4-6 (fifth) in OCC-Capital
*Seniors lost: Tyreese Cherry, Jhaiquez Ford, Antwon Hampton, Curtis Jacobs and Teron Pittman
*Key returnees: Deahmi Guinn, Javon Miller and Nakhi Taylor