Despite moving up to the sport's heaviest weight class, along with his team now competing in Division I, Whitehall-Yearling High School senior wrestler Assante Ndongo doesn't appear to be fazed.
Striving for a state tournament berth, Ndongo, who competed at 220 pounds last season, was 20-2 at heavyweight before the Rams faced Dublin Coffman on Jan. 16
Weighing between 245 and 250, Ndongo is lighter than some heavyweights -- the weight class has a limit of 285 -- but he uses his quickness to gain an advantage over bigger competitors.
Competing against Coffman gave Ndongo and his teammates a chance to face Division I competition in preparation for the postseason.
"It's not really a big jump for me," Ndongo said. "It's another division. Division size is based on the school size. Wrestling is all technique."
Coach Steve Pennington said Ndongo's commitment in the offseason is a key to his success.
Ndongo finished first in the home Dan Gartner Duals on Dec. 9 and Canton McKinley Invitational on Dec. 29, and he placed second in the Cambridge Invitational on Dec. 2.
"He's one of the few that put in a lot of work in the offseason and it's showing," Pennington said. "He had a decent season last year (and) made it to the district tournament. This year, he's hitting moves with proper technique. Even though he's up a weight class, he's fast for heavyweight. He wrestles a very smart match. ... The big jump for him has been mental this year."
Ndongo went 1-2 in the Division II district tournament last season to finish 35-14 overall. He also was second-team all-MSL-Ohio Division.
After gaining weight for football in the fall, Ndongo and Pennington decided he would compete at heavyweight this season. Pennington also studied the competition statewide to determine Ndongo's best opportunity to succeed in the postseason.
"A couple kids that we thought were going to stay at 220 have come up to heavyweight, but the way he's wrestling, we're not worried about it," Pennington said.
Pennington was referring to Hilliard Bradley's Jacob Cover and Bexley's Grant Robinson. Ndongo and Robinson would only meet in the MSL-Ohio tournament Feb. 3 and not in the postseason since Bexley is in Division II.
Robinson defeated Ndongo twice last season.
Ndongo also excelled in football, helping the Rams earn back-to-back postseason appearances. He started on both sides of the ball at right guard and nose guard, and was second-team all-league and special mention all-district last fall.
Entering high school with football as his main passion, Ndongo developed a love for wrestling and is considering pursuing that sport in college.
"My goal freshman year when I came in was football over wrestling and then sophomore year I had a wake-up call that wrestling was probably was where it was going to be at," Ndongo said. "I'm going to try to wrestle in college."
The Rams were scheduled to compete in the Licking Heights Invitational on Jan. 12 and 13, but it was canceled because of bad weather.
Ndongo and his senior teammates will be recognized Thursday, Jan. 18, before a home tri-match with Utica and Walnut Ridge.
He has come a long way during his prep career and hopes his final season doesn't end until the state tournament March 8-10 at Ohio State.
"I am happy with my season so far. I'm 20-2, a big jump from my freshman year," Ndongo said. "My freshman year I was 1-6. I barely wrestled varsity my freshman year, and then this year I'm taking off."
Boys basketball team preps for Bexley
The boys basketball team continues its pursuit of an MSL-Ohio title when it plays host to Bexley on Saturday, Jan. 20.
The Rams defeated the Lions 68-53 on Dec. 9.
Whitehall's home game against Columbus Academy was postponed Jan. 12 because of bad weather. Both teams are 4-0 in the league.
The Rams, who are 6-3 overall, play Mansfield Senior on Thursday, Jan. 18, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Girls basketball team to face Red Raiders
The girls basketball team was 1-12 overall before playing Delaware on Jan. 17 and is 0-5 in the MSL-Ohio.
The Rams play host to London on Friday, Jan. 19, looking to improve on a 75-33 loss to the Red Raiders on Dec. 8.
Whitehall's game against Bexley was postponed Jan. 13 because of bad weather.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
Jan. 18 -- Mansfield Senior at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland
*Jan. 20 -- Home vs. Bexley. The Rams defeated the Lions 68-53 on Dec. 9.
Jan. 23 -- At DeSales
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. London. The Rams lost to the Red Raiders 75-33 on Dec. 8.
*Jan. 18 -- Africentric at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Jan. 19 -- DeSales at Holiday Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Independence at Holiday Lanes
Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Utica and Walnut Ridge