Longtime assistant Eric Saxton is enjoying his new role as Grove City High School boys basketball coach.
Saxton replaced Greg Waits, who stepped down after 15 seasons to become the school's athletics supervisor.
"It wasn't as strange as you would have thought," Saxton said of his transition to head coach after being an assistant in the program for 19 seasons. "Greg and I have had such a good relationship over the years, and he's given me lots of responsibilities as an assistant coach."
The Greyhounds started their new era by winning the Grove City Tip-Off Classic, defeating Bexley 60-57 in the title game Dec. 1 after beating Mifflin 66-50 in the first round Nov. 30.
Senior William Morrison, a 5-foot-9 guard, hit a shot from half court to end the first half against Bexley and connected on a 3-pointer with 0.9 of a second remaining to lift the Greyhounds to the title.
Grove City had lost to Mifflin twice last season, 65-47 in the first round of the Grove City Tip-Off Classic and 69-55 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"(Saxton is) doing a great job," 5-foot-9 senior guard Sam Stoll said. "It's kind of the same as last year. We all like the other guys, so it's going pretty well right now."
Grove City opens OCC-Ohio Division play Friday, Dec. 7, at Lancaster. It finished 11-12 overall and 3-7 in the league last year.
"The league will be super tough as always," Saxton said. "I think it's the best division in the state of Ohio. Every time you turn the TV on you see a (former player) from the OCC-Ohio playing. Our league is going to be the toughest part of our season."
Grove City lost most of its scoring and rebounding leaders to graduation. The top returnees are Morrison, Stoll and 6-1 senior guard Chase Allmon.
"We want to compete every game, go 110 percent and try our best every game," Morrison said.
Also back are 6-2 senior guard Kamwren Smith, 6-1 junior guard Cole Crager and 6-0 sophomore guard Brock Waits.
Other players are seniors James Ford (6-0, guard) and Jacob Hohla (6-3, post player), juniors Trevor Goss (6-2, guard), Jason Grimm (6-2, guard), Luke Smith (6-0, guard) and Damien Weatherspoon (5-10, guard) and sophomores Alex Coffey (6-0, guard) and Michael Hooffstetter (6-1, guard).
"I am pleasantly surprised," said Saxton, who played point guard at Grove City and is a 1987 graduate. "We don't have a lot of guys who have played varsity minutes. We did pretty well in our scrimmages. We don't have any true post players, so we're always going to have five guards on the floor. ... The energy level is great so far."
Key players lost to graduation include P.J. Jones and Nick Erwin. Jones, who is playing at Lake Erie, averaged a team-best 17.6 points and 6.2 rebounds last season and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Erwin averaged 14.9 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. He is playing baseball at Ohio State.
Wrestling team returns solid group
Wrestling coach Jay DiMasso began his 20th season hoping to qualify athletes for the Division I state tournament in early March.
The Greyhounds opened Dec. 1 by winning the 15-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales. They scored 295.5 points as Olentangy Liberty (275) was second.
"There are different challenges every year," DiMasso said. "We have a lot of younger guys in our lineup this year. We have a lot of incoming freshmen, which is a good problem to have. We have a lot of good youth."
Seniors Hunter Barker and Justin Swavely are expected to be the top contenders to earn state berths. Barker went 0-2 at state last season at 152 pounds to finish 38-14, and Swavely went 2-2 at district at 138 to finish 38-6.
"We have a lot of people coming back from last year," Swavely said. "We had two seniors graduate, so we have the same team coming back this year, so that's good."
Other returning district qualifiers are juniors Blake Stevens (145, 27-14 last season) and James Scalf (126, 16-11).
Other key wrestlers are juniors Jackson Kuhn (126), Nicholas Minic (182), Max Petty (195), Dominic Reynolds (160) and Joey Woolard (heavyweight), sophomores Nick Getz (220) and Caden Gordon (132) and freshmen Triston Beane (113) and David Jordan (120).
Barker, Jordan and Woolard won titles at DeSales.
Last season, the Greyhounds went 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Gahanna and Pickerington Central for second behind Lancaster (5-0).
Grove City opens league action Jan. 10 at Lancaster.
"Lancaster is the team to beat," DiMasso said.