Westerville North High School wrestling coach David Grant has a dual focus. What his athletes achieve off the mat is as important to him as what they accomplish on it.
The Warriors have one of the area's most successful programs, as they competed in a Region 5 semifinal of the Division I team dual tournament Jan. 31. However, they also excel in the classroom, with a 3.1 overall GPA for 70 participants and 14 wrestlers at 4.0 or above.
"We had 18 kids improve their grades this quarter from last year to this year," Grant said. "We try to stress that. They are reminded on a regular basis to get their homework done and focus on that when things get stressful. We don't want it to be all about wrestling."
Senior Andrew Scherer led all winter athletes at North with his second-quarter GPA of 5.04. The 126-pounder has a 4.6 overall GPA and plans to major in electrical engineering at either Miami University or Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.
"(Excelling in the classroom) gives you a peace of mind," Scherer said. "It shows you that you have the skill set you need on the mat. The hours you put in on the mat doing the same moves over and over really helps. It's like doing math problems to get ready for a test. A dual meet is your test day after working together every single day on the mat."
The 12-member senior class has been leading the way for the Warriors, especially Scherer, Zach Pryfogle (160 pounds, 4.59 GPA), Jack Stallings (120, 4.33) and Jacob Woods (170, 4.2).
"The senior class especially has been showing how much they understand the importance of classwork," athletics director Wes Elifritz said. "It's impressive with how much time they spend practicing and working with youth wrestlers, and they still are hitting the books."
Pryfogle said the mindset instilled by Grant and his coaching staff is a big part of the success.
"I think the culture coach Grant has created makes a difference," Pryfogle said. "He always makes sure we're on top of our grades. He's always checking them and it's all about schoolwork coming before wrestling.
"I think doing homework and preparing for tests is a lot like preparing for a wrestling match. You're going to show up to practice and not fool around. You want to get better."
In its opening matches in the team dual tournament, North defeated Westerville Central 66-9 and Olentangy 39-28 on Jan. 24 at Delaware.
The Warriors faced host Marysville in a Region 5 semifinal, with the winner facing Dresden Tri-Valley or Lancaster in the final later on Jan. 31.
The regional champion advanced to a state quarterfinal Feb. 11 at Ohio State's St. John Arena. Last season, North reached state for the first time but lost in a quarterfinal.
Caden Crist, a 152-pound junior who has a 4.75 GPA, said schoolwork is an indicator of how you perform on the mat.
"Wrestling helps me a lot in the classroom, especially with time management," he said. "I know I practice at this time so I have to get my homework done before that. It really keeps me on my feet, and I know I have to work hard to get what I want in both.
"If you cannot get the little things done, how can you perform on the mat? How you do (in class) translates to the mat."
Bernsdorf, Mathews lead boys swimmers
Andrew Bernsdorf and Jason Mathews each won a pair of events to lead the boys swimming and diving team in the OCC-Buckeye meet Jan. 26 and 27 at Thomas Worthington.
Bernsdorf won the 100-yard butterfly (52.9 seconds) and 500 freestyle (4:45.13), and Mathews was first in the 200 free (1:41.45) and 100 breaststroke (58.98).
The two also joined Chris Lake and Hayden Yeager on the runner-up 200 medley relay (1:42.03) and the third-place 400 free relay (3:24.99).
Yeager placed third in the 200 individual medley (2:07.71).
The Warriors were fourth (163) behind Olentangy Liberty (400.5), Olentangy Orange (259) and Olentangy (210.5) and ahead of Westerville South (142) and Central (73).
Janessa Mathews led the girls team, winning the 100 breast (1:04.11) and placing third in the 200 free (1:59.95). She also joined Emma Bolen, Ariana Sanabria and Cheyney Carr on the first-place 200 free relay (1:47.28).
North was fifth (161) behind Liberty (279), Olentangy (273.5), Orange (186) and Central (182.5) and ahead of South (145).
The Warriors next compete in the Division I sectional meet Feb. 10 at Upper Arlington.
Boys basketball team increases league lead
The boys basketball team held a two-game lead in the OCC-Buckeye after defeating Olentangy 66-47 on Jan. 26.
The Warriors are 6-1 in the league, with South in second at 4-3.
Julius Brown scored 16 points to lead the way against the Braves. Noah Voorhies had 12 points and Charles Perkins added 10.
North improved to 14-3 overall with a 57-46 win over Reynoldsburg in the Jared Sullinger Play by Play Classic on Jan. 27 at Ohio Dominican. Brown had 29 points and seven 3-pointers, and Voorhies had 11 points with three 3s.
Jeremiah Keene scored 24 points with five 3-pointers and Philip Alston added 14 points in a 72-60 loss to UA on Jan. 23.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 2 -- At Olentangy Liberty. The Warriors lost to the Patriots 63-57 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Liberty. The Warriors lost to the Patriots 62-46 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 6 -- At Coffman
*Feb. 6 -- Marysville at Marysville Lanes
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Olentangy