Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestling coach Steve Pennington says there is only one goal that is acceptable this season for senior Ana Abduljelil.

Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestling coach Steve Pennington says there is only one goal that is acceptable this season for senior Ana Abduljelil.

After competing in the state tournament in two of his first three seasons, Abduljelil is striving to win a Division II state title. The tournament will be held March 3-5 at Ohio State.

"He's been through so much -- he's been wrestling so hard and so long, year-round -- he has to be a state champ," Pennington said. "That's his destiny. He's got to get in there."

Abduljelil was 30-2 before the Rams competed against Buckeye Valley in a state team tournament regional semifinal Feb. 3 at St. Paris Graham.

The winner faced Graham or Wapak-oneta in the Region 14 final later that night, with the winner advancing to a state quarterfinal Feb. 14 at Ohio State's St. John Arena.

Graham has won three consecutive state team titles and 17 individual state team championships, including the last 15.

Whitehall, which was seeded first in Region 14-A, advanced to face Buckeye Valley by defeating Hamilton Township 59-15 and Hartley 34-31 on Jan. 27 at home. Pennington reached a coaching milestone against Hartley, as he earned his 200th career win.

For Abduljelil, he entered action Feb. 3 undefeated in the state of Ohio this season. Both of his losses came Dec. 19 in the Grapple at the Castle Duals in Ona, W.Va.

He won the 113-pound title in the Cruiser Invitational on Jan. 30 at Groveport, defeating Mason's Jaimen Hood 6-5 in the final on a takedown in the closing seconds.

"I'm very confident this year and there's one goal," Abduljelil said of winning a state title. "I have to stay healthy and work every day at practice, putting everything on the mat, doing the best that I can. If I do all that nothing should stop me."

The Rams finished ninth (75 points) of 13 teams at Groveport behind champion Mason (337). Branham Kipruto was second at 120.

Abduljelil began this season at 120 but has since dropped a weight class, which he and Pennington believe will be more favorable for him in the postseason.

"That was his decision about two weeks ago," Pennington said. "It gives him a better shot to win a state title."

Abduljelil has been hampered by injuries for most of his career. He missed the final two months of last season with a stress fracture in his back, finishing the year 21-2 at 113.

"Every time I step on the mat I think about last season," he said. "It lets me realize I have to put everything I have on the mat because it possibly could be the last time I step on the mat."

Pennington said Abduljelil has been competing this season with a left shoulder injury. He signed Nov. 11 to wrestle at the University of Indianapolis.

As a sophomore, Abduljelil finished seventh at state at 113 despite competing the final month of the season with a separated right shoulder. As a freshman, he was fifth at state at 113.

Boys basketball team earns crucial win

The boys basketball team avenged a 62-51 loss at Grandview on Dec. 18 by defeating the Bobcats 62-58 in overtime Jan. 30 at home.

The Rams were 14-3 overall before playing Caledonia River Valley on Feb. 1 and are 10-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division. Whitehall and Worthington Christian are tied for first in the league and will meet Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Worthington Christian.

The Rams defeated the visiting Warriors 74-45 on Jan. 8.

Grandview fell to 7-4 in the league.

Whitehall was in control for most of the rematch, leading by as many as 13 points in the third quarter before the Bobcats rallied in the fourth.

The Rams, however, went on a 12-3 run to begin overtime. C.J. Prater led Whitehall with 19 points and Earl Redman scored 16.

Despite the win, coach Drew Williams was not pleased with his team's overall effort.

"We're not playing where we need to play to be a championship contender," he said. "My kids play hard. We're just not playing smart right now. We could have easily put that game away in regulation."

Girls bowling team wins MSL title

The girls bowling team won the program's fourth consecutive MSL title and fifth overall, defeating Worthington Christian 3-0 in the league tournament final Jan. 30 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

The Rams defeated Grandview 3-1 in a semifinal.

"That's been our goal since the beginning of the year," coach Jess Biller said of winning the league title.

Sophomore Madison Stiffler had a 729 series during qualifying play to earn her second consecutive MSL Bowler of the Year award.

"That is unbelievable," Biller said. "That girl is progressing every ball, every frame. Every match she gets a little bit better and a little more confident."

Biller was named league Coach of the Year for the fifth time.

The Rams also were looking to win a Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South title, as they were 11-0 in the league before competing against Groveport on Feb. 1.

Whitehall closes COHSBC play against Teays Valley on Friday, Feb. 5, at Holiday Lanes.

Briggs was second in the league at 9-1 before facing Pickerington Central on Feb. 1.

The boys team finished second in the MSL tournament, losing to Worthington Christian 3-2 in the final.

The Rams were tied with Groveport for second in the COHSBC-South at 11-1 before competing against the Cruisers on Feb. 1.

Pickerington North led the league at 11-0 before facing Teays Valley on Feb. 1.

Girls basketball team continues to struggle

The girls basketball team entered its game against Worthington Christian on Feb. 2 looking to end a six-game losing streak.

The Rams were 7-11 overall and 4-7 in the MSL-Ohio.

Whitehall lost at home to West Jefferson 52-46 on Jan. 29 as Stephanie Ellis scored 23 points and Zaria McBride had 15.

The Rams lost at Amanda-Clearcreek 59-56 on Jan. 27 despite outscoring the Aces 26-9 in the fourth quarter. McBride scored 32 points.

Whitehall received the 13th seed for the Division II district tournament and opens with a second-round game Feb. 17 at seventh-seeded Lakewood.