John Wheeler believes in his Northridge High School boys basketball team and wants his players to believe in themselves.

John Wheeler believes in his Northridge High School boys basketball team and wants his players to believe in themselves.

The Vikings are young and inexperienced, but the second-year coach feels Northridge has the talent to compete with anyone on its schedule.

Case in point would be last Tuesday. Northridge jumped out to an 11-1 lead at Johnstown-Monroe, but lost the MBC contest 63-43.

"The Xs and Os really don't matter that much because probably 95 percent of the game is mental," said Wheeler, whose team dropped to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the league after last Tuesday. "We have good basketball players. We're the youngest team on our schedule, but we have good players. We should be competing in every game and, as a player, if you don't believe you should be competing, then you shouldn't play the game."

The Vikings started by knifing through the Johnstown man-to-man defense to take the 10-point advantage. Then, the Johnnies switched to a zone and the momentum shifted.

"When we cut hard and run our man-to-man offense, we're tough," Wheeler said. "Centerburg came out in a man (defense) and couldn't guard us, and then they went to a zone. The kids then got out of sync and we got a little bothered (in a 76-64 loss to the Trojans on Dec. 18).

"We stopped attacking when we faced the zone (against Johnstown). We can score when we face a zone. Liberty Union zoned us the whole game and we scored a lot of points against them."

The Vikings won 71-66 on Dec. 8 in a non-league game at Liberty Union. Grandview beat visiting Liberty Union 44-40 last Monday in a Mid-State League-Cardinal Division game.

Grandview was 4-1 after the win last Monday and plays the Vikings at 8 p.m. Monday in the Bobcats Holiday Classic. The tournament's earlier game features Hartley and Wellington. Hartley enters the tournament at 5-0 and Wellington is 0-6.

The losing teams from the opening day play at 6 p.m. Tuesday with the winners playing in the championship at 8 p.m.

The Vikings then play a non-league game on Jan. 6 at Columbus Academy before returning to MBC play on Jan. 8 at Danville.

Last Tuesday against Johnstown, Aaron Estep and Justin Howard scored 10 points apiece to lead the Vikings and Connor Burke added eight points. Tony Rios had five points.

In the loss to Centerburg, Estep led Northridge with 15 points and Cody King scored 11 points. E.J. Snyder and Rios both scored eight points and Bill Andrews had six points.

The wrestling team finished 10th out of 11 teams with 118 points in the Licking County Tournament on Dec. 19 at Heath.
The Vikings were led by a pair of freshmen. Andrew Mullins was runner-up at 112 pounds and Thomas Williams was third at 125. Both finished 4-1 with one pin.

"Andrew really seemed more relaxed than he had in earlier matches," said coach Bill Perry, whose team competes Tuesday in the Bloom-Carroll Duals. "Thomas Williams has only lost two matches this year and both have been to Utica's Pete Hughes. This time, the match was really close, but he made a mistake and it cost us the match."

Sophomore heavyweight Ian Van Kirk and 145-pound freshman Zack Rudy both went 2-3 to finish sixth.

"We didn't do as well as we had hoped we would do," Perry said. "Our 215-pounder, Tim Sullivan was sick and we replaced him with Seth Smith, a freshman who didn't win a match, but got a lot of good varsity experience."

Northridge returns to MBC competition on Jan. 6 at home against Johnstown and Centerburg. On Jan. 9, the Vikings are the host team for the Northridge Invitational.