Although he was disappointed with his finish, Grove City High School senior wrestler Dane Whittier set his focus on improving that performance in the Division I state tournament Thursday, March 9, through Saturday, March 11, at Ohio State.
Whittier earned his first state berth by placing fourth at heavyweight at district March 3 and 4 at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced.
"I accomplished my goal. I've been dreaming of this since eighth grade," Whittier said. "(The district tournament) didn't go as well as I hoped, but I came back from the bottom and I'm going to state. ... My goal is to place."
After being pinned by Olentangy Liberty's Davin Lambert in the first round in 5 minutes, 4 seconds, Whittier bounced back to win his next four matches, including 9-4 over Lambert in a consolation match to secure his state berth.
Whittier lost to Marysville's Tyler Connolly 4-3 in the third-place match and enters state at 42-7. He will face Wadsworth's Jordan Earnest, who is 43-6 and coming off a district championship, in the first round.
Whittier's state berth highlights a prep career that began when he saw limited action as a 220-pound freshman. He was able to gain valuable guidance by training with 2014 graduate Chandler Evanichko, who began the season at heavyweight before dropping to 220 for the postseason.
Whittier was 15-19 at heavyweight as a sophomore before improving to 22-15 last season when he earned his first berth to district, where he finished 0-2.
"(A) kid's initial dream is to be a state champ, but when we pull all those aspirations away it's be a state qualifier and (Whittier) reached that goal, which is pretty awesome," coach Jay DiMasso said. "He had a long path to get back to it with five matches and beating a kid that beat him. ... The goal is to place and be top eight in the state."
Also at district, sophomores Justin Swavely (132) and Hunter Barker (152) and freshman Blake Stevens (113) were 1-2, and senior Tanner Kennaw (170) and junior Tanner Stevens (220) were 0-2.
"I would have liked a little better performance out of a few, but collectively as a team (we) probably got more wins than some anticipated," DiMasso said. "A few of the individuals didn't add to that collection as much as we would have liked."
Grove City finished 19th (34 points) behind champion Liberty (236.5) as 42 teams scored.
Boys basketball team
reaches district semi
The boys basketball team was 12-11 before playing 18th-seeded Dublin Coffman in a Division I district semifinal March 8 at Pickerington Central.
The 17th-seeded Greyhounds had a first-round bye and defeated 26th-seeded Olentangy 78-67 in the second round March 3 at home. Zach Sammeth made four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points, and Isaiah Dewberry added 20 points.
"We tell them you have to be playing your best at the end of the season and that was probably one of our better efforts in a while, so we're really proud of them," coach Greg Waits said. "We're playing at home and we shoot well in this gym and our kids have a lot of confidence."
The Grove City-Coffman winner plays top-seeded Pickerington Central or 19th-seeded Mifflin in a district final Saturday, March 11, at Ohio Dominican. Grove City lost to Central 83-49 on Jan. 13 and 85-60 on Feb. 10 in OCC-Ohio Division play, but defeated Mifflin 67-60 on Dec. 2.
The district champion plays Hilliard Davidson, Reynoldsburg, St. Charles or Westerville South in a regional semifinal Wednesday, March 15 at Ohio Dominican.
Grove City split its league games with Reynoldsburg, losing 53-34 on Dec. 16 and winning 36-34 on Feb. 3. The Greyhounds lost to Davidson 64-51 on Jan. 17 and did not play St. Charles or South.
The regional final is March 18 at Ohio Dominican.
Conti closes career
with girls team
Led by senior guard and Wake Forest signee Gina Conti, the girls basketball team finished 14-10 overall.
The 15th-seeded Greyhounds lost to third-seeded Pickerington Central 63-38 in a Division I district semifinal March 1 at Hamilton Township. They also lost to the Tigers 62-36 on Jan. 13 and 63-45 on Feb. 10 in OCC-Ohio play.Videos •Coaches and players greet senior girls basketball player Gina Conti as she leaves her final prep game March 1. •Watch an interview with boys basketball player Zach Sammeth.
Conti finished with a game-high 18 points in the third matchup with Central.
"It's like a happy sad," Conti said of her prep career ending. "I'm happy to do bigger things and continue my career, but it's also sad knowing that my whole life I've been playing here and now it's over."
Central went on to defeat sixth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 48-29 in a district final March 4.
After a first-round bye, the Greyhounds defeated 22nd-seeded Canal Winchester 61-45 in the second round Feb. 21 at home.
Conti, the Greyhounds' only senior, was named first-team all-league after averaging a team-high 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Freshman forward Molly Michalak averaged 10.3 points and was special mention all-league, and sophomore guard Erin Kilmurry averaged eight points and was honorable mention all-league.
Others eligible to return are juniors Lauren Griffith (forward), Molly McCloskey (center), Yazmin Strausbaugh (guard) and Hannah Swearingen (guard), sophomores Grace Fisher (guard), Alyssa Fuchs (forward), Sumer McWilliams (guard) and Lauren Walls (guard) and freshman Madison Grube (center).
"I think we're going to be solid again," coach Dale Corbett said. "Trying to replace Gina is going to be monumental. I guess you don't do that. You just put another player in there."
Grove City went 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind Central (10-0), Reynoldsburg (8-2), Gahanna (6-4) and Pickerington North (3-7) and ahead of Lancaster (1-9).
"I thought we played pretty well this season," Corbett said. "I thought we won about what I thought we would win. Our league is amazing."