The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys basketball team is hoping to pick up where it left off last season.

The Wolves won seven of their final 10 games a year ago and finished 9-14 overall. They return five letterwinners, including three starters and two of their top three scorers.

The emphasis during the offseason and preseason was placed on defense, according to 19th-year coach Tom Souder.

"We must defend hard and continue to share and push the ball on offense," Souder said. "We are not very big but have a number of guys who can get after you defensively."

The returning starters are seniors Gavin Baker (6-foot-2, guard) and Zach Wilson (6-1, guard) and sophomore Cayden Dougherty (5-9, point guard). Also back are 6-1 senior forward Kyler Archual and 6-4 sophomore forward Ian Schupp.

"We have 11 players who can make an impact on every game," Souder said. "I love our combination of youth with the experience from last year."

Last season, Wilson averaged 12.6 points and 3.1 assists and was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division I, as the Wolves finished 6-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to tie Dublin Jerome for third behind champion Hilliard Bradley (12-0).

Baker averaged 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.

"Zach worked extremely hard this offseason to further his skill set," said Souder, whose team opened Dec. 4 at Westerville South and begins league play Friday, Dec. 7, at Jerome. "He is a tough defender and is playing very well now. Gavin has extended his range on his jumper and has worked hard defensively to further impact the game."

Dougherty averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 assists as a freshman.

Seeking to fill roles this season are seniors Daunte Sutton (6-3, forward) and Jack Smullen (6-1, guard), juniors Will Alban (5-11, guard), Braydon Biehn (5-10, guard) and Blake Gardner (6-2, forward), sophomores Travis Mecklenburg (6-2, forward), Mitchell Tomasek (6-3, forward) and Brian Wilson (5-11, guard) and freshman Ayden Parsons (5-9, guard).

Kilbourne lost five players from a year ago to graduation, including wing player Jake Hirschy, who averaged 10.8 points and was named second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

"I am very proud of the way this group has worked together and the way our seniors have provided great leadership thus far," Souder said. "We are young and will continue to grow throughout the year. We need to embrace the process of continually getting better, so we must push hard to narrow the gap from where we are to where we want to be.

"We want to compete in every situation. In order to do that, we've got to share the ball, push the ball and defend to the best of our ability. I do love how we are coming together as a unit, though."

Wrestling team hopes to build with new coach

The wrestling program is facing a building year under first-year coach Jose Martinez.

"We are hoping to continue to develop the good things that were established here prior to me coming on board," said Martinez, who guided Newark the past nine seasons and takes over for seven-year coach Brett Shaut. "We are also looking at adding and expanding the opportunities available for potential wrestlers in the Worthington community during the season and offseason.

"We do have the benefit of having one kid in the room that has already made it to the state tournament, and we have a great coaching staff that has a good mix of youth and experience. Our kids are all working very hard to get better every day."

The returning state qualifier is junior Kuric Buell, who will compete at 132, 138 or 145 pounds this season after going 0-2 at 132 in his first state tournament appearance last season to finish 25-9 overall.

Buell advanced to state by placing fourth in the district tournament at Hilliard Darby, where he was the Wolves' lone competitor.

Returning after competing in the sectional at Upper Arlington last season are senior Kyle Watson (145/152), juniors George Coldiron (182/195), Sean Hoffman (132/138), Alex Rader (145/152) and Andrew Rice (152/160) and sophomore David Straveler (113/120).

Also returning are junior Jay Thompson (195/220) and sophomore Gabe Wright (152/160).

Buell and Watson made first-team all-league last year and Rader and Thompson were third-team all-league, as Kilbourne went 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to place sixth behind co-champions Delaware and Bradley (both 5-1).

Watson was a district qualifier in 2017 and Thompson was a district alternate that same season.

Completing the roster are seniors John Berardi (160/170) and Jarid Hunter (120/126), sophomores Luke Compton (138/145) and Spencer Parker-Gordon (106/113) and freshmen Sebastian Pinzon (120/126), Iain Rojas (145/152) and Malcom Saas (138/145).

Kilbourne opened Dec. 1 by finishing fifth (112 points) in the 10-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington as the host Bears won (255). Thompson won the title at 220, Buell was second at 145 and Parker-Gordon was third at 113.

"Our eventual goal is to compete as a program for conference, district and state-level championships individually and as a team on a consistent basis," Martinez said. "I believe there is a lot of potential for this to be a great program, but I know there will be some substantial challenges to make it happen.

"We are struggling with low numbers at all levels. I am reaching out to the school and community to hopefully increase the participation numbers. We are also trying to create some fun experiences for our lower levels to create some excitement. This year we will be taking our teams (youth, middle school and high school) to the Ohio State vs. Penn State dual. Our young kids will get to go on the mat during intermission."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 4 -- at Westerville South

*Dec. 7 -- at Dublin Jerome

Dec. 11 -- at Westerville Central

*Dec. 14 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*Dec. 17 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Dec. 21 -- at Delaware

*Jan. 4 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Jan. 8 -- at Olentangy Berlin

*Jan. 11 -- vs. Thomas

Jan. 12 -- at Canal Winchester

*Jan. 18 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Jan. 19 -- vs. Granville

*Jan. 22 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*Jan. 25 -- at Hilliard Darby

Jan. 29 -- vs. Marysville

*Feb. 1 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*Feb. 5 -- vs. Delaware

*Feb. 8 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin

Feb. 12 -- vs. Watterson

*Feb. 15 -- at Thomas

WRESTLING

Dec. 1 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington

Dec. 5 -- at Franklin Heights

Dec. 6 -- at Columbus Academy with Hamilton Township and Madison Plains

Dec. 8 -- Wolfpack Classic at home

*Dec. 13 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

Dec. 15 -- Findlay Invitational

*Dec. 20 -- at Hilliard Darby

Dec. 28-29 -- America's Best Value Inn Invitational at St. Clairsville

Jan. 5 -- Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto

*Jan. 10 -- at Dublin Jerome

*Jan. 17 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

Jan. 18-19 -- Top Gun Invitational at Alliance

*Jan. 24 -- at Delaware

*Feb. 7 -- at Olentangy Berlin

*Feb. 14 -- vs. Thomas

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome

*Dec. 11 -- At Thomas

BOWLING

*Dec. 7 -- Whitehall at Holiday Lanes

Dec. 8 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Dec. 12 -- Newark at Capri Lanes

HOCKEY

*Dec. 8 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 11 -- At Thomas with Bloom-Carroll

*League contest