Although there hasn't been a varsity wrestling team at Watterson High School since the 2015-16 season, there has been activity going on behind the scenes in regard to the program since that time.
Former Ohio State wrestler Tommy Rowlands, a Ready graduate who won two state titles and two NCAA championships, has been running the Little Eagles wrestling club to teach the sport at the youth level.
With the anticipation that the sport eventually would return to Watterson, the wrestling room has been remodeled, and a list of each of the program's state placers including its four state champions -- the last of which was Joe Ghezzi in 1983 -- is on the wall.
One of the most important steps in rebuilding the program took place in April when Felix Catheline was hired as coach.
Last season as Columbus West's coach, Catheline helped 2018 graduates Dawson Shaw (heavyweight) and Matthew Shaw (220 pounds) close their careers at the Division I state tournament.
"The parents of the Little Eagles wanted to establish the high school program as opposed to waiting so that it would be ready (when their kids got to high school)," Catheline said. "Last year, I had a really good wrestling season (at West) with the Shaw twins both qualifying for state. We had open mats in June and I coached the defensive line (for the) Watterson (football team) and was kind of able to build relationships."
Catheline expected to have five to 10 wrestlers this season but was pleasantly surprised to have 14 come out for the team.
The Eagles will compete in their first match Dec. 19 at Franklin Heights in an event that also will include West and Ready. They then will compete Jan. 5 in the Bobcat Invitational at Grandview. The remainder of their schedule will be a mix of junior varsity and varsity matches as well as tournaments.
There is one returnee from the last Watterson team in senior Michael Ritzenthaler, who competed at 138 as a freshman but is expected to be at 160 or 170 this winter.
Senior Max Balyeat, who has played football and boys lacrosse for the Eagles, is expected to be at 220 or heavyweight.
The rest of the competitors, according to Catheline, are new to the sport.
During the 2015-16 season, 2016 graduate Ben Kring went 1-2 at the Division II district tournament at 126 to finish 41-11 on the season and 109-46 for his career and classmate Karrington Norwood (182) also was a district qualifier.
Ritzenthaler had two older brothers who also wrestled for the Eagles in 2016 graduate Jake Ritzenthaler (152) and 2018 graduate Nick Ritzenthaler (145).
"We've got a solid nucleus of kids that are working hard," said Catheline, who remains a teacher and track and field coach at West. "It's going to be a little bit before we get to the level we can be at, but we're pretty excited. We're struggling with light weights. Our goal is to get competitive enough to enter the sectional tournament. This year is about retaining the kids, try to get them involved and bought into it."
Boys basketball team looks for next step
The boys basketball team won eight of its final 10 games in the regular season last year and advanced to a Division II district semifinal on its way to posting four more wins than it had the previous season.
With six seniors and a returning junior leading the way, 26th-year coach Vince Lombardo is hopeful his team can build on a 13-11 overall finish that included winning a share of the CCL title at 6-2 with Ready and Hartley.
Watterson opened Dec. 4 against Walnut Ridge.
"We've got a good returning group," Lombardo said. "We finished last season very positively. We started the year 4-8 and ended up sharing the league title.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but we're optimistic at this point."
Senior guards Zach Sawyer (6-foot) and Stephen Garrett (6-1), senior forwards Jimmy Patton (6-4) and Drew Davis (6-3) and junior wing player Chris Crane (6-2) are the top returnees.
Last season, Sawyer averaged 14.5 points and was second-team all-district and Patton averaged 11 points and was third-team all-district. Garrett averaged eight points, Crane averaged seven and Davis averaged three.
Sawyer is expected to be the point guard after splitting time between shooting guard and point guard last season.
The other seniors are Matt Rhomberg (6-2, forward) and Aiden McGinn (6-5, forward), while junior Mason Graney (6-3, forward) is another returnee.
Junior Mike Bruzzese (6-1, guard) and sophomores Davis Boone (6-2, guard), Noah Grayem (6-2, guard) and Sam Intihar (6-11, guard) are others looking to contribute.
The Eagles lost three players from a year ago to graduation, including guard Liam Aman, who averaged 3.5 points, and wing player Cort Marbaugh, who averaged 5.5 points.
"We think we're going to have some quality depth this year," Lombardo said. "We've got solid size throughout the lineup. I think our team size will be good enough to get the job done, as well as our overall quickness.
"Definitely at this point, we're looking forward to a good year and we hope to challenge in our league and be playing our best basketball in the latter part of year."
Dec. 4 -- vs. Walnut Ridge
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Hartley
Dec. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Dec. 14 -- vs. DeSales
*Dec. 21 -- at St. Charles
Dec. 23 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Dec. 29 -- at Marysville
Jan. 2 -- vs. Hamilton Badin
Jan. 5 -- at Mansfield St. Peter's
Jan. 8 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
*Jan. 11 -- at Ready
Jan. 12 -- at Kettering Alter
Jan. 15 -- at Westerville North
*Jan. 18 -- at Hartley
*Jan. 25 -- at DeSales
Jan. 26 -- at Mansfield Madison
*Feb. 1 -- vs. St. Charles
Feb. 9 -- vs. Whetstone
Feb. 12 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*Feb. 15 -- vs. Ready
Feb. 16 -- vs. Perry
Feb. 19 -- at Jonathan Alder
Dec. 19 -- at Franklin Heights with Ready and Columbus West
Jan. 5 -- Bobcat Invitational at Grandview
Jan. 15 -- at Columbus Academy
Jan. 19 -- Jonathan Alder Invitational
Jan. 29 -- vs. Centennial
Feb. 13 -- CCL duals at TBA
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
Dec. 6 -- Home vs. Whetstone
Dec. 8 -- At Olentangy Berlin
Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Dec. 12 -- At Gahanna
Dec. 6 -- Hartley at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 7 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7 -- Westerville Central at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State