On a squad lacking experience, junior Andrew Sherman has been looked upon for leadership on and off the mat for the Westland High School wrestling team.
Sherman has delivered, providing guidance for his teammates and going 23-9 at 182 pounds heading into the Cougars' OCC-Central Division match against Dublin Coffman on Jan. 25.
"I do my best to lead by example and they just follow through my steps," Sherman said. "I've been more dedicated this year and more focused on the goals that I set this year and my conditioning."
Westland opens the postseason by competing in a Division I sectional Feb. 24, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to district March 2 and 3. At district, the top four in each weight class qualify for state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Sherman is seeking his first district berth after going 0-2 at sectional last season at 170 to finish 20-21 overall.
"It's been on mind lately to go to district (and) trying to go to state," Sherman said. "It's been my goal (because it will) push me harder this year."
Although it was a loss, Sherman said a highlight for him this season came when he dropped a 6-3 decision to Marysville's Nathan DeWitt in a league match Jan. 4. Westland lost 75-6 to the perennially strong Monarchs, with Steve McPeek earning the team's lone win with a pin of Jayden Simmons at 138 in 5 minutes, 2 seconds.
Sherman credits first-year coach Mark Niemann for his development.
"Coach Niemann has been a big help to me," Sherman said. "He keeps pushing me harder. He relies on me to get messages to the team because they look up to me."
Niemann has been impressed with Sherman's progress and said he has the potential for a strong postseason.
"I can only hope my coaching improves him," Niemann said. "He's gaining in confidence. A lot of these kids are starting to do the moves that we're teaching and they're gaining confidence, and it's obvious when (Sherman) is able to connect with the things that we want (then) good things happen."
Senior heavyweight Soriba Kaba was expected to be a leader this season, but he was lost for the season after injuring a shoulder during football season. He was 1-2 at district last season at 220 to finish 25-19.
Niemann said sophomore Edgar Cruz again is having a strong season at 113, as he was 14-7 before facing Coffman. Cruz qualified for district last season, going 0-2 at 106 to finish 26-18.
Niemann said McPeek and Bryson Palmer at 120 also have contributed.
"I love what I see," said Niemann, whose team was 0-2 in the OCC-Central before facing Coffman. "Last week was probably the best week that we had in competition since we started. We have kids hitting the moves that we're teaching, which means they're gaining confidence in the practice room and it's translating into the matches, which is what needs to happen."
Westland tied Apple Creek Waynedale for 11th (62.5 points) in the 20-team Hamilton Township Classic on Jan. 20 behind champion Hilliard Davidson (233).
"It was great," Niemann said. "We almost finished in the top half. ... I really wanted to be top half. We only had five guys enter."
Sherman (182) and Cruz (113) finished second and Palmer (120) was sixth.
Sherman also plays fullback and linebacker in football and specialized in the shot put last season in track and field. He said competing in those sports, along with participating in open mats and summer camps during the offseason, helped his conditioning for wrestling.
"He is a phenomenal kid," Niemann said. "He is the kind of kid that stays after for youth wrestling. He's the kind of kid that you can rely on. (I'll say), 'Hey, I need this scale put away,' and he sticks around until everybody is weighed out and he puts it away. He's a team-first guy and that's what you love to see."
Boys basketball team breaks into win column
The boys basketball team earned its first win under first-year coach Rob Hayes, defeating visiting Columbus West 64-54 on Jan. 20 as Gaige Holbrook and Zach Winegardner each scored 17 points.
The Cougars were 17-for-19 from the free-throw line.
Westland was 1-14 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Central before playing Coffman on Jan. 26.
Hayes was disappointed with his team's rebounding in a 70-64 loss to visiting Canal Winchester on Jan. 23. The Cougars were outrebounded 43-31, including 19-8 in offensive rebounds.
"We refuse to rebound the basketball and we won't win until we do," Hayes said. "We had a great effort for large portions of the game at both ends of the floor. We shot it well and we didn't turn it over as much as we have in the past. None of it matters if we don't finish possessions with a great effort on the glass. That was a tough loss to stomach."
Holbrook scored a game-high 26 points and DeShawn Evans added 15.
Mitch Burns scored 14 points, Holbrook had 13 and Mickey Martinez added 11 in a 91-65 loss at Marysville on Jan. 19.
Girls basketball team edged by Briggs
The girls basketball team was 3-12 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Central before playing Coffman on Jan. 25.
The Cougars lost at Briggs 49-46 on Jan. 24 as Trinity McClure scored a game-high 35 points.
Second-year coach Matt Jaynes coached at Briggs the previous seven seasons, serving one year as a boys assistant and one year as a girls assistant before leading the girls program for five years.
Westland lost to Marysville 63-33 on Jan. 19 and Canal Winchester 100-28 on Jan. 23.
McClure scored a game-high 22 points against Marysville and 18 against Canal Winchester.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics and wrestling teams:
Jan. 30 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
*Feb. 2 -- At Upper Arlington. The Cougars lost to the Golden Bears 83-32 on Dec. 22.
Jan. 30 -- At Whitehall
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. UA. The Cougars lost to the Golden Bears 70-20 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 3 -- Home vs. Columbus East
Jan. 29 -- At UA* with Central Crossing*, Franklin Heights and Grove City*
Feb. 3 -- Canal Winchester Invitational