Since Centennial High School opened for the 1976-77 school year, its wrestling team has yet to win the City League championship. It earned its only conference runner-up finish in 2008 when it finished 77 points out of first.

Since Centennial High School opened for the 1976-77 school year, its wrestling team has yet to win the City League championship. It earned its only conference runner-up finish in 2008 when it finished 77 points out of first.

The Stars had two conference champions a year ago but settled for third at the league tournament with 143 points, as Marion-Franklin dominated the field with 290.5 points and Columbus West was a distant second (180.5).

Things could be changing for the better this season for Centennial, however.

On the opening night of City quad meets Dec. 15 on their home mats, the Stars edged the Red Devils 42-35 and beat Northland 84-0. Centennial also went 5-0 at the Columbus South Duals on Dec. 11.

"The kids have been working hard," coach Mark Shaffer said. "They worked really hard in the offseason and our assistant coach, Cory Richart, did a nice job taking the kids to wrestling camp in the offseason. As I told the kids, they did a nice job beating Marion-Franklin, but the thing is, how much better are we going to become between now and the City (tournament)?"

The Stars will be host to the Centennial Duals on Dec. 30 before returning to City League action Jan. 5. They then have five meets before competing against Whetstone on Feb. 2 for the Golden Grappler trophy.

The City tournament is Feb. 12 at South.

Junior Joel Waits, who won the City title last year at 130 pounds and is competing at 135, is back to lead the way. Other returnees for the Stars are seniors Derek Evans (171), Craig Neutzling (130) and Taylor Wicks (189) and juniors Stanley Hendricks (125), Michael Jamison (145), Angel Leeman (160) and Ananias Pittman (heavyweight). Hendricks was a Division II district qualifier last season.

Other key competitors include sophomores Patrick Ayeh-Kumi (152) and Clint Hewlett (112) and freshman Peter Fallon (103).

"We started the program back up in 2000, and what's helped is having a lot of people in here helping out," Shaffer said. "We tell them, 'Give us two weeks to find out what it's about.' Very rarely do we lose kids. We try to have fun, and once they buy into the program, they enjoy being here."

Marion-Franklin has two returning Division I district qualifiers in senior Chad Jones (140) and junior Michael Patrick (160) but has inexperienced competitors at several spots in its lineup.

Juniors Kyle Messer (119) and Floyd Cisco (125) and sophomore Charles Parkham (130) are others who have shown promise early on.

Marion-Franklin, which led a City tournament that also included Brookhaven (138.5), Whetstone (126), South (116), Mifflin (107.5), Walnut Ridge (103), Northland (87.5), Briggs (75), Independence (72), Columbus East (58.5), Eastmoor Academy (53) and Linden-McKinley (1) last season, will compete Wednesday and Dec. 30 at the Ready Winter Classic.

"We're super young this year," Red Devils coach Derek Oney said. "We've got two returning district qualifiers, but other than that we don't have a lot of experience. All around the City this year I think everybody is rebuilding and young. The last few years we always had some seniors."

Walnut Ridge has a trio of seniors leading the way in Stanley Bingham (140), Keyondre Clayton (152) and Trey Garrison (160). According to coach Chuck Stewart, others who have competed well early on are junior Romario Buddai (189) and sophomores Devon Bingham (140), Raul Flores (112), Travis Gusan (heavyweight) and Jason Hawkins (171).

"We've always been more focused on getting guys to district, but I think we can do pretty well at City and maybe get into the top five this year," Stewart said. "The good thing is we've been dropped to Division II (for the postseason), so I think we can get more kids through (to district). These kids are wrestling really hard."

•If the results of the Whetstone Invitational on Dec. 14 are an accurate indicator, then the Centennial boys and girls swimming and diving teams could be the teams to beat at the City meet Feb. 5 at Columbus Aquatic Center.

Marysville won the boys title at the Whetstone Invitational with 127 points, followed by Centennial (113), Hilliard Davidson (109), Whetstone (72), Northland (61) and Marion Harding (51). Marysville and Davidson shared the girls title with 140 points, followed by Centennial (107), Whetstone (75), Marion Harding (36) and Northland (25).

Stars freshman Lexie Herron finished second in the 50-yard freestyle in 27.28 seconds and already has broken the program record in the event by swimming 26.8. Herron also was second in the 100 free (59.94).

Also at Whetstone, sophomore Aaron Maharry won the boys 100 breaststroke (1:09.5) and senior Kalyssa Watkins won girls diving (130.7).

Other top competitors for the Stars boys include senior divers Danny Conroy and Brian Waterman and senior swimmers Sean Deken, John Jacobsen and Nick Sallara. Senior Laura Watkins and freshman Kaylyn Aebie are other top swimmers for the Centennial girls.

"We've got a lot of experience and a lot of new kids," said Maria Turner, who is in her sixth season as Stars coach. "Our top goal is to win the City with both the boys and girls, and our next goal is to take as many individuals as we can to district. I think the kids are such a close-knit group that they all do a good job getting people out for the team, which helps."

The Whetstone boys team's top performers at its home invitational were sophomore Nick Nottage, who was second in the 200 individual medley (2:21.22) and second in the 100 breast (1:09.38), and junior Orwan Irwin, who was first in diving (176.45).

For the Braves girls, junior Olivia Degitz was third in the 100 backstroke (1:08.66) and sophomore Audrey Bollas took third in the 100 butterfly (1:12.09).

"Centennial reminds me of what we've been the last two to three years, just very strong," Braves coach John Dering said. "We're strong in spots, but we just don't have enough depth yet. Pete and Bert Pajor, Brandon Rhodes and Nick Nottage are all on our 200 medley relay and 200 free relay, and Nick is also doing the breaststroke this year, so we're pretty excited about that."