The Licking Heights High School wrestling team returns three district qualifiers among its six letterwinners.

The Licking Heights High School wrestling team returns three district qualifiers among its six letterwinners.

Junior Josiah Harrell leads that group after finishing 44-5 overall at 160 pounds last season, including going 1-2 in his first trip to the Division I state tournament. He won sectional and district championships.

"Josiah is a very talented athlete and the kind of athlete that can see something once and be able to replicate whatever it is immediately," ninth-year coach Bo Ramsey said. "He has a rare combination of strength and speed that puts him in a position to win in any match.

"Josiah wrestled up in weight in the offseason and had plenty of success. After getting his feet wet at state last season, he should be in good position to contend for the top of the podium."

Harrell, who beat two wrestlers who placed in the top three at state last season, may move up to 170.

Also competing at district were juniors L.A. Kelly (182) and Dereck Wilson (160/170). Both went 1-2.

Kelly has made a big jump in weight classes, as he was 35-11 at 152 last year. Wilson was 19-13 at 170.

"L.A. moved up in weight, but it won't be a problem for him," said Ramsey, whose team opened Dec. 5 in the Olentangy Invitational. "He needs to get healthy coming off of an outstanding football season, so it may be a slow start. He has made major strides in the last two years as a wrestler. He gets to wrestle with one of the top kids (Harrell) in the state every day and it has made him better.

"Dereck will most likely be dropping a weight this season, which will make him a huge body at (160). He came on strong last year in the postseason and has so far shown in practice that he is building on that finish. The confidence that he gained last year is evident. He should have success from the start of the season this year."

Other letterwinners are senior Taylor Woolard (138/145) and juniors Josh Martin (170) and Garrett Sommerkamp (heavyweight). Martin lettered as a freshman, but did not compete last season.

Last year in the LCL tournament, 2015 graduate Ty Yeager (138) and Harrell won titles as Licking Heights finished fifth (187) behind champion Licking Valley (347). Kelly and Sommerkamp both placed third, and Wilson was fourth.

Yeager was a district alternate and finished 36-8.

Rounding out the roster are junior Quintin Payton (220/heavyweight), sophomores Keyshawn Brown (220), Hunter Boron-Perry (145/152) and Jay Snider (220) and freshmen Esaias Auls (145), Mitchell Coultas (106), Joey Ferreira (heavyweight), Drew Lako (106), Chase Lilly (195), Wyatt Peters (145), Carson Robison (152) and Cody Trago (120).

With the large number of freshmen and the small number of upperclassmen, the Hornets will approach this season differently.

"We will be sending most of our young kids on a j.v. schedule rather than throwing them to the dogs all season," Ramsey said. "We will most likely not threaten to win varsity tournaments, but the five or six we do take to varsity meets will all score points."

Girls basketball team under new leadership

The girls basketball team is off to a slow start as it adjusts to a coaching change.

Danielle Fleming, a 2007 Hamilton Township graduate who has been in the Licking Heights program for four years, has taken over for fourth-year coach Tay Tufts.

A family emergency forced Tufts to step down Nov. 19, two days before the Hornets' opener against Westerville North.

"I was the j.v. coach and varsity assistant this year, so I spent half of our practices with the j.v. and half with the varsity," Fleming said. "With this being my fourth year here, I'm familiar with all of the girls, especially the younger ones.

"I think the girls have bounced back better than expected. It was a big shock for the older girls. We've done OK thus far, but we need to space the floor better and move the ball better."

The Hornets lost their first two contests, but bounced back to beat Big Walnut 69-66 on Dec. 2 to move to 1-2 before opening LCL play Dec. 4 against Lakewood.

The Hornets lost to Westerville North 65-44 on Nov. 21 and to Marion Harding 58-32 on Nov. 23.

Senior post player Crystal Jackson and sophomore guard Cassidy Denig both scored 15 points against North. The Hornets were outscored 12-0 in the first quarter against Harding.

Against Big Walnut, Jackson had 23 points and six rebounds and junior point guard Jordin Spears had 12 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds. Denig had 11 points and freshman guard Emily Swisher added eight points.

"We never trailed and led 48-32 at halftime, but struggled a bit in the third quarter," Fleming said. "I would think that Jordin's 15 assists is a school record, but I need to look that up. She had 13 in the first half and was just incredible."

Boys basketball team falls in opener

The boys basketball team opens LCL play Friday, Dec. 11, against Newark Catholic.

The Hornets lost to Canal Winchester 54-40 in their opener Dec. 1 and played Olentangy Orange on Dec. 5.

Senior guard Austin Dulaney had 15 points in the opener for the Hornets, who were outscored 32-18 in the second half. Junior forward Chase Doone added seven points.