Jack Wilson's first appearance at the Division I district wrestling tournament did not end how he would have liked, but the New Albany High School junior left thinking as much about how important that event was for the program as how close he had come to qualifying for state.
Six of the Eagles' seven district qualifiers are expected to return next season, one year after New Albany advanced four wrestlers to district.
Wilson finished sixth at 195 pounds in the tournament that concluded March 3 at Hilliard Darby, scoring most of the Eagles' 12 points as they tied Worthington Kilbourne for 30th behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
"It's really good to get some guys in here," Wilson said. "Colin (Swincicki at 113) was here as a freshman and the experience here will be great for him going forward. The youth of this team will learn a lot from having been here."
David Rodriguez (heavyweight) was the Eagles' only senior at district.
Peter Ackley (170), Billy Lee (220), Daniel Rodriguez (182) and Wilson are juniors, Michael Zusman (138) is a sophomore and Swincicki (113) is a freshman.
"Hopefully having this many here helps them buy in to doing more in the offseason," coach Larry Reichard said. "Four of our seven here (Ackley, Lee, Swincicki and Wilson) play multiple sports so they don't do much extra in the offseason. I talked to them about (maybe for) just an hour a week, rolling around and getting some work in. That's something where we can really see some growth."
Three wrestlers reached 30 wins, as Ackley had a team-best 32-8 record, Daniel Rodriguez went 32-20 and Swincicki finished 31-12. Wilson was 23-9, Zusman was 23-14 and Lee was 22-11.
Ackley, Lee and David Rodriguez all were competing at district for the second consecutive year.
New Albany went 3-2 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish third behind co-champions Groveport and Newark (both 4-1) and ahead of Big Walnut and Canal Winchester (both 2-3) and Franklin Heights (0-5).
Ackley, David Rodriguez and Wilson all earned runner-up finishes in a sectional Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial, as the Eagles placed third (135.5) of 10 teams behind champion Olentangy (259.5).
Wilson was New Albany's only placer at district, but he was the first to earn that distinction since Matt Odierno was district runner-up at 215 in 2011.
"Being third in the OCC was tough, but we peaked (at district) and that's all that matters," Reichard said. "At sectionals, three other kids took sixth (Brady Conley at 120, Jayden Fudge at 126 and Nico Candido at 152) and they were all freshmen. We'll see what we can do.
"Last year, we really pushed for the OCC (-Capital championship). That was our main goal. This year was for this, for sectional and district. If a league title happened, it happened. Last year we really pushed for the league title and once that was all done, it was like 'now what?' This year, we were fine not winning the league. We wanted to do the best we could (at district) and hopefully punch our way through to state."
Key contributors to return in bowling
The boys and girls bowling teams both expect to return three of their top five scorers after both squads were represented in their respective Division I district tournaments.
Junior Adriane Hammond of the girls team averaged a team-best 191.3 pins per game and competed at district March 3 at HP Lanes, finishing ninth (510) of 102 individuals to fall just short of a state berth.
The girls went 4-8 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division to tie Olentangy Liberty for ninth behind champion Gahanna (12-0), and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Liberty for seventh behind champion Olentangy (7-0).
New Albany finished 17th (2,806) at sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes, one spot shy of a district berth. Gahanna (3,642) won as 37 teams competed.
Other expected returnees include sophomores Mackenzie Halloy (137.0 average) and Chloe Delma (109.9). They will have to help replace the production lost to graduation with Kaylee Leite (126.7) and Amanda Lifter (120.1).
Led by sophomore Grant Kresina (178.3) and seniors Kenneth Kresina (177.9) and Brendan Cohen (177.0), the boys team advanced to district despite going just 1-11 overall and in the COHSBC-A during the regular season. The Eagles finished 12th in the COHSBC-A behind champion Westerville Central (12-0) and went 0-7 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish eighth behind the champion Warhawks (7-0).
Nonetheless, New Albany finished sixth (3,424) of 38 teams at sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes behind champion Central (3,836) and 15th (3,147) of 16 teams at district March 3 at HP Lanes behind the champion Warhawks (3,907).
Juniors Ryan Ho (154.2) and Thomas Carey (129.8) also are expected to return.
"The kids remained positive and continued to work on their games throughout the season," coach Damian Hammond said. "It was great to see the boys squad perform well at sectional. ... It's imperative that the kids continue to bowl in the offseason and improve their games. Being more consistent picking up spares is an area that we need to improve on before next season."
Boys basketball team had tough season
Junior center/forward Will King and sophomore guard Jake Warinner are among the expected returnees for the boys basketball team, which went 7-16 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital.
Senior guard Jalin Jackson averaged a team-high 11.1 points and 3.0 assists, and Warinner added 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Seeded 39th for the 48-team Division I district tournament, New Albany lost its only postseason game, 65-50 at fourth-seeded Westerville North on March 2.
"I told them a million times this year I wouldn't want to be in any other locker room even though we only won seven games," coach Sam Davis said after the loss to North. "The last two weeks, we practiced so well. You'd have never thought we had a losing record. An important man in my life once told me that a barometer of success as a coach is what your kids are in five years. I give a lot of that to their parenting, but sports reveals good character and my kids have a lot of that."
Davis lamented that the team rarely was able to string together consistent success. The Eagles never won consecutive games outside a three-game winning streak from Dec. 28-Jan. 5.
"Sometimes with as tough of a schedule as we play, it gets to you. You have to win some games," Davis said. "Winning begets winning."
New Albany tied Big Walnut and Canal Winchester for second in the league behind Newark (10-0) and ahead of Groveport (4-6) and Franklin Heights (1-9).
Jackson was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Warinner was second-team all-league and senior guard Rahul Chandra was honorable mention all-league.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
*Record: 7-16 overall, 5-5 (tied for second) in OCC-Capital
*Seniors lost: Alex Benseler, Rahul Chandra, Jalin Jackson, Devon Lyles, Remi Martin and Brennan Wood
*Key returnees: Will King and Jake Warinner
*Record: Boys -- 1-11 overall, 1-11 (12th) in COHSBC-A, 0-7 (eighth) in OCC-Buckeye; Girls -- 4-8 overall, 4-8 (tied for ninth) in COHSBC-A, 1-6 (tied for seventh) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Brendan Cohen, Kenneth Kresina and Dominic Melendez; Girls -- Amanda Lifter and Kaylee Leite
*Key returnees: Boys -- Thomas Carey, Ryan Ho and Grant Kresina; Girls -- Chloe Delma, Mackenzie Halloy and Adriane Hammond
*Finishes: Third in OCC-Capital, third at sectional, tied for 30th at district
*Seniors lost: Mike Ho, David Rodriguez and Hunter Thurman
*Key returnees: Peter Ackley, Daniel Rodriguez, Colin Swincicki, Jack Wilson and Michael Zusman