What a difference a season has made for the Westerville North High School wrestling team.
A year ago, the Warriors advanced nine competitors to the Division I district tournament but ended up with no state qualifiers, five fifth-place finishers who were state alternates and two sixth-place finishers. This time, they had 10 compete at district March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby and qualified three for state Thursday, March 8, through Saturday, March 10, at Ohio State.
One of those fifth-place finishers from last season, 120-pound senior Lucas Seibert, will be joined at state by senior heavyweight Davis Gaylord and 170-pound junior Mitch Potterf. Seibert and Potterf both placed third and Gaylord was fourth at district as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced.
"It's pretty satisfying," said Seibert, who improved to 22-3 overall by defeating Upper Arlington's Jesse Bowers 6-3 in a consolation final. "I lost my sophomore and junior years in the go-to (state) match, so winning this one was pretty satisfying. It brought tears to my eyes."
Seibert lost in the second round to Dresden Tri-Valley's Joseph Eckelberry 3-2, but won his next four matches to finish 5-1 at district.
"You have to have a serious mindset but you can't let your nerves get to you, which happened to me for two years in a row," Seibert said about moving to the consolation bracket.
"I was nervous, but I know how good I am. I have matured as a senior and I know my whole team and coaches are behind me."
Gaylord went 4-2 at district and is 26-10 overall after losing to Columbus West's Dawson Shaw 5-0 in the third-place match. He lost 4-1 in the second round to eventual champion Jacob Cover of Darby, but defeated Olentangy Liberty's Davin Lambert 8-3 in a consolation semifinal to earn his first trip to state.
On Feb. 15, Gaylord was pinned by Lambert in the first period of a 35-25 OCC-Buckeye Division dual loss.
"I have been looking forward to this match for a while," Gaylord said after defeating Lambert. "He threw me (down for a pin) in about 20 seconds last time we wrestled. It's really, really nice to know all of the hard work that I put in during the offseason has paid off.
"I'm just excited and I'm ready to get to work. It's a really cool feeling to get to be a part of state and getting to wrestle there. It cements the whole idea of taking one match at a time. It works and that's what I need to do to progress at state."
Potterf pinned Delaware's Mason Sutandar in 39 seconds in the consolation final to improve to 26-7 overall. He was pinned by Lancaster's Jordan Deluse in 3:49 in a semifinal, but dropped to the consolation bracket and defeated Groveport's Jake Nelson by default.
"My coaches told me to keep my head and not lose my cool or let the (semifinal) loss bother me," said Potterf, who was 4-1 at district. "I needed to stay focused on what's really important.
"It's going to be pretty sweet (competing at state). I have to wrestle hard in my first match and see what happens after that."
The Warriors finished ninth (71.5 points) at district behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
Also competing were seniors Body Bien (195, 1-2) and Andrew Scherer (126, 0-2), juniors Caden Crist (152, 1-2) and Jacob Goldsmith (182, 2-2), sophomore Blake Wright (132, 1-2) and freshmen Jake Gooding (113, 1-2) and Gabe Ohle (106, 1-2).
Boys basketball team reaches district semi
The boys basketball team earned its first berth in a Division I district semifinal since 2013.
The fourth-seeded Warriors were 20-4 before playing 30th-seeded Canal Winchester on March 7, with the winner playing seventh-seeded Gahanna or ninth-seeded Pickerington North in a district final Saturday, March 10, at Ohio Dominican.
North has not played either team this season and would be looking for its first district title since 1998.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 15 at Ohio Dominican.
North's seniors made the most of their final home game, defeating 39th-seeded New Albany 65-50 on March 2 in the second round. Senior Julius Brown led the way with 29 points and six 3-pointers.
Senior Julian Malone had 12 points and junior Jeremiah Keene added 11.
"We accomplished a lot of goals (against New Albany)," coach Shan Trusley said. "It's a big deal for our seniors with it being their last game on their home court. It propels them into a district semifinal, which we haven't been to in five seasons, and it gives us 20 wins, which we also haven't done in five years."
Girls bowlers end season at district
The girls bowling team concluded its season by finishing 16th (2,534) in the 16-team Division I district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes.
Junior Kaitlyn Sturgell led the Warriors by rolling a 444 three-game series to finish 36th of 102 bowlers behind medalist Shannon Gonzales (581) of Gahanna. Briggs' Dakota Fink (574, second), Eastmoor Academy's Averi Brown (564, third) and Delaware's Kelsey Rohrer (550, fourth) advanced to state.
Freshman Sophia Soisson (417, 49th) and sophomore Danielle Pratt (302, 83rd) also rolled three games for North.
Gahanna (3,596), Whitehall (3,438) and Westerville Central (3,360) advanced to state as teams.
In the sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes, the Warriors placed 12th (2,942) of 37 teams behind champion Gahanna (3,642) as Soisson (520, tied for 12th) led North.
The boys team finished 29th (2,999) of 38 teams behind champion Central (3,836) in the Division I sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
Junior Jason Sturgell (482, tied for 51st) led North. Freshman Will Mueller (447, tied for 86th), sophomore Drew Wright (431, 100th) and senior Austin Hagemann (396, 117th) also rolled three games.
The boys finished 3-9 overall, tied Beechcroft for 10th (3-9) in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division behind champion Central (12-0) and were seventh (1-6) in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion Central (7-0).
The girls finished 6-6 overall, tied Big Walnut and Olentangy Orange for sixth (6-6) in the COHSBC-A behind champion Gahanna (12-0) and tied the same two teams for fourth (3-4) in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion Olentangy (7-0).
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Record: Boys -- 3-9 overall, 3-9 (tied for 10th) in COHSBC-A, 1-6 (seventh) in OCC-Buckeye; Girls -- 6-6 overall, 6-6 (tied for sixth) in COHSBC-A, 3-4 (tied for fourth) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Austin Hagemann; Girls -- Livie Stanton and Soumoya Wright
*Key returnees: Boys -- Will Mueller, Jason Sturgell and Drew Wright; Girls -- Danielle Pratt, Sophia Soisson and Kaitlyn Sturgell