Following a challenging December, the Big Walnut High School wrestling team expects to have its lineup in shape for the coming OCC-Capital Division duals.
The Golden Eagles will open their league competition Thursday, Jan. 11, at Newark.
Last season, Big Walnut finished third (3-2) in the OCC-Capital, behind Groveport (5-0) and New Albany (4-1) and ahead of Franklin Heights (2-3), Canal Winchester (1-4) and Newark (0-5).
"We talked at the start of the year, with our low numbers and guys not quite at their right weights, it was going to be a rough first month because we were giving up a lot in dual meets and wrestling a tough schedule," coach Luke Moore said. "I like where we are right now, and we're almost to the point where we have everybody at the right weight."
Big Walnut will begin OCC competition without wrestlers in three of the 14 weight classes: 106, 126 and 170 pounds. However, Moore expects the rest of his lineup to be strong and confident.
That was the case in the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament held Dec. 27 and 28 at Vandalia Butler, where seniors Bailey Munday (132) and Cole Foster (138) earned spots on the podium.
Munday placed third after defeating Kyle McCullough of Buford (Georgia) 7-0, while Foster lost to Hilliard Bradley's Zander Ellison 4-3 to place sixth. The Golden Eagles tied Union (Kentucky) Ryle for 18th (55.5 points) of the 27 teams competing in Division I, behind champion Buford (192).
Munday, a state qualifier and first-team all-OCC-Capital honoree last season, and Foster, a district qualifier and first-team all-league competitor a year ago, are 18-1 and 17-5, respectively, this season.
Others who competed in the GMVWA Holiday Tournament included Ryan Colletta (152, 1-2), Josh Halbakken (160, 2-2), Max Lenz (220, 3-2) and Tanner Daniels (heavyweight, 1-2).
Moore said he has seen much improvement in Halbakken and Lenz, who are among the team's eight returning letterwinners.
"They're really starting to turn the corner," Moore said.
Their strengths should help in what's expected to be a competitive OCC-Capital.
"New Albany is probably the team to beat right now," Moore said. "They have a pretty solid lineup. Groveport is the returning champ, so obviously they're going to be tough to beat. After that, it's going to be anybody's game."
Coaching changes for two fall sports
Drew Pitzer has stepped down as girls soccer coach, weeks after guiding the team to its first regional championship.
Pitzer compiled a 52-30-16 record in five seasons with the Golden Eagles. Last fall, Big Walnut finished 16-3-4 overall, losing to Cincinnati Indian Hill 4-0 in a Division II state semifinal, and placed third (3-1-1) in the OCC-Capital, behind Canal Winchester (4-0-1) and New Albany (3-0-2), as Pitzer was named Central District Coach of the Year and ThisWeek's Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
"I enjoyed my time immensely at Big Walnut and all of the support of the Sunbury community," said Pitzer, who was a volunteer assistant with the Golden Eagles in 2012 before taking over the program in 2013. "We had a great run the past six years, and I felt that after such a great year that it was the perfect time to step aside and let someone else take over."
Big Walnut finished with a winning record in all five seasons under Pitzer, posting eight wins in 2014, nine victories in 2013 and 2015 and 10 wins in 2016. The Golden Eagles won their first district championship in 2016.
"Three years ago, the girls lost in the district finals and at that time they were the only girls soccer team in school history to reach the district finals," athletics director Brian Shelton said in a statement. "Two years ago, the girls were district champs, losing in the regionals to state champion Kettering Alter. ... Under the leadership of Drew Pitzer, players have received all-Ohio, all-district and all-OCC awards, along with many other individual accomplishments, including multiple players competing at the college level."
Meanwhile, former boys soccer coach Charlie Brodhead has been named boys golf coach.
Brodhead takes over for Chuck Workman, who led the program for eight seasons.
Last fall, the Golden Eagles finished second (16-4) in the four-round OCC-Capital tournament, behind New Albany (20-0), and placed seventh of 12 teams in a Division I sectional at Clover Valley. Big Walnut had two individual district qualifiers in senior Michael Ford and sophomore Kenny Schneider.
Brodhead led the boys soccer program for 19 seasons before resigning in 2011.
Boys basketball team hoped to end skid
The boys basketball team had lost four consecutive games entering its OCC-Capital contest at Franklin Heights on Jan. 5.
The Golden Eagles fell to 3-5 overall with a 53-52 loss to Mansfield Madison on Dec. 30 and were 1-2 in the league before playing the Falcons.
Big Walnut lost to host Newark 63-39 in a league contest Dec. 22. The Wildcats led 33-21 at halftime and pulled away in the second half, outscoring the Golden Eagles 21-7 in the third quarter.
Jordan Koebel led Big Walnut with 14 points.
Girls basketball team seeks more OCC wins
The girls basketball team was 6-4 overall but only 1-3 in the OCC-Capital before playing host to Franklin Heights on Jan. 5.
Big Walnut lost to defending league champion Newark 63-44 on Dec. 21 at home before beating host Chillicothe Unioto 56-45 on Dec. 30 behind 11 points each from Katie Cochran and Erin Boehm.
Cochran scored 10 points against Newark.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 9 -- At Westerville Central
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Groveport
Jan. 9 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Jan. 12 -- At Groveport
*Jan. 8 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 11 -- Teays Valley at Capri Lanes
Jan 12 -- Olentangy Liberty at
Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Central Ohio Splash at Thomas Worthington (swimming) and Westerville Recreation Center (diving)
*Jan. 11 -- At Newark
Jan. 12-13 -- Licking Heights Invitational