Having only six starters with winning records, the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team has struggled to a 5-8 record in duals.

Having only six starters with winning records, the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team has struggled to a 5-8 record in duals.

But coach Grant McCormick believes the Golden Bears can do well in the OCC-Central Division tournament Saturday at Westland, even though it is a dual format. McCormick said the key for the Golden Bears is to earn more pins than they surrender, and he pointed to a 36-35 loss to Dublin Coffman on Jan. 17 as the perfect example. The Golden Bears won eight of the 14 bouts but were pinned in all six losses.

"We've had three matches that I can think of -- Dublin Coffman, West Jefferson (41-30 loss Jan. 22) and Delaware (41-36 loss Jan. 22) -- where the difference was not getting enough pins and giving up too many," said McCormick, whose team tied Grove City and Reynoldsburg for third at 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye a year ago behind Hilliard Davidson (5-0) and Coffman (4-1) and ahead of Westerville North (0-5). "Our league opponents are really strong, but I think we can compete with them and win some of these close matches if we can get a few more pins going our way instead of against us."

Also competing in the OCC-Central are Central Crossing, Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

In the Division I area coaches poll last week, Central Crossing was third, Davidson was seventh and Coffman and Darby were tied for 10th.

The teams will be seeded and divided into two four-team pools for round-robins. The top two teams from each pool will compete in two more duals for first through fourth place. The other four will compete in two duals for fifth through eighth place.

Kevin Drake is 31-0 and was ranked first in the are poll at 145 pounds.

None of the other Golden Bears were ranked in the top three of their weight classes, but Connor Pitman (24-8 at 112), Karic Cecutti (12-5 at 130), Kyle Frost (18-2 at 152), Alex Kaps (14-9 at 171) and Ben Johnson (12-7 at 189) also have winning records.

"Our more-experienced guys will need to do our jobs and get pins and tech. falls, but it really will come down to how our entire team performs, because we'll need some of our other guys to step up and get some big wins for us, too," Drake said. "If we've got everyone wrestling to their potential, I think we could really surprise some of these teams."

The Golden Bears could be involved in some premier matchups against opponents who were ranked in the area poll.

Pitman could face Central Crossing's Andrew Higgins (second) or Davidson's Angelo DiSabato (third) at 112, Cecutti could battle Central Crossing's Austin Sanders (first) at 130, Frost could face Darby's Joe Crabtree (second) or Davidson's Taylor Smith (third) at 152 and Kaps could face Davidson's Spencer Delande (tied for third) or Thomas' Mike Brankamp (tied for third) at 171.

"I'd like to see some of these big matches, but who knows what lineup we'll see out there, because we'll probably have coaches juggling their lineups to try to get extra points," McCormick said.

"We're going to try to win these matches, but I also want to see our guys wrestle the best competition possible.

A lot of our opponents have been throwing inexperienced kids out there or forfeiting against Kevin Drake, which gives us six points but doesn't get him ready for the postseason. Hopefully, now that Kyle's back in the lineup (from an undisclosed injury), people won't be able to dodge Kevin anymore."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington wrestling team:

Jan. 22 -- Lost to West Jefferson 41-30; lost to Delaware 41-36. Connor Pitman (112), Karic Cecutti (130), Kevin Drake (145), Kyle Frost (152) and Alex Kaps (171) went 2-0.

Saturday -- At OCC-Central tournament at Westland

Wednesday -- Home vs. Gahanna, Marion-Franklin and Olentangy