The postseason can become a chess match for high school wrestling coaches seeking the best possible matchups for their athletes.
Big Walnut coach Luke Moore said his team will be up against three of the Central District's top squads when it competes in a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 24, at Newark.
Among the 10 teams at the site with the Golden Eagles are Olentangy Liberty, Westerville North and Lancaster. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.
"Our sectional is pretty tough, but I really like our chances," said Moore, whose team is seeded 19th of 43 teams in the district. "I think we have five or six guys who have a really good shot at getting to district. Three of those guys are right on the bubble. They're going to have to win some matches that they theoretically shouldn't win."
Seniors Bailey Munday (132 pounds, 33-1 before Feb. 15) and Cole Foster (138, 33-6) will enter the postseason with the Golden Eagles' best records.
A year ago, Munday became the program's first state qualifier since 2014, going 0-2 in his first state appearance, and Foster was a district qualifier.
"(Munday's) weight class has the top four guys ranked in the district at our sectional," Moore said. "So, it should be a fun day for him, but I don't think that will affect him getting out. He will be battle-tested, for sure."
Moore also has high expectations for other wrestlers, including Josh Halbakken (170, 25-8), Max Lenz (195, 24-8), Luke Apple (182, 19-7) and Tanner Daniels (heavyweight, 23-11), who is a first-year wrestler.
Big Walnut concluded its OCC-Capital Division schedule Feb. 15 against New Albany. Entering the match, the Golden Eagles were third in the league at 2-2, behind Newark (4-0) and Groveport (3-1).
Carifa leads boys swimmers at sectional
Dominic Carifa of the boys swimming team edged two others to earn the title in the 200-yard individual medley in a Division I sectional Feb. 10 at Thomas Worthington.
The senior won the event in 2 minutes, 1.74 seconds, just ahead of New Albany's Patrick Daly (2:03.02) and Delaware's Zach Ward (2:03.11).
"Everybody around me was so close, and I can only really compete when I have competition like that," Carifa said. "Everyone was within seconds of each other."
Carifa also placed fourth in the 100 butterfly (55.68) and anchored the seventh-place 400 freestyle relay behind John Grumney, Sam Delfino and C.J. Rockwell (3:35.34).
Carifa qualified for the district meet held Feb. 17 at Ohio University in both the 200 IM and 100 fly. The 400 free relay also advanced to district, where the top two finishers in each swimming event automatically qualified for the state meet Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times statewide.
The boys team finished eighth (55 points) of 12 teams at sectional, behind champion New Albany (300). The girls team, which did not have any district qualifiers, was 12th (12) of 13 teams, behind champion New Albany (401).
There was no diving at sectional. Senior Colin White placed sixth (427.95) of 26 competitors in the boys district diving meet Feb. 13 at Dublin Community Recreation Center, falling one spot shy of qualifying for state. Darby's Hayden Apel (468.7) was fifth.
Nate Dimitroff also competed for the boys, finishing 12th (313.6).
In the girls district diving meet Feb. 12 at the same venue, Mackenna Ames and Eliana Smith finished 24th (138.05) and 25th (137.2), respectively, of 33 competitors as the top four advanced to state.
Dimitroff seeks return to state gymnastics
Senior Mary Dimitroff of the gymnastics team will be looking to earn her fourth state berth when she competes in the district meet Saturday, Feb. 24, at Worthington Kilbourne.
At district, the top three teams advance to the state team meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley, while the top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advance to the state individual meet March 3 at Bradley.
Dimitroff, who was Big Walnut's only state qualifier a year ago, finished second in the all-around (35.15) behind Westerville Central's Gianna Brooks (35.5) in the OCC-Buckeye meet Feb. 10 at Hilliard Davidson.
Dimitroff, who had won the OCC-Buckeye all-around title last season and as a freshman, finished first on vault (9.075) and placed third on balance beam (8.95) and fifth on uneven bars (8.525).
Two other Big Walnut gymnasts also placed in the top 10 in the all-around in the league meet as the Golden Eagles finished fourth (118.75) behind Olentangy (140.5), Olentangy Liberty (128.15) and Olentangy Orange (124.75) and ahead of Westerville Central (118.325).
Kayla Hildebrand was sixth (30.95) and Kayla Farley was 10th (27.65) in the all-around.
"Overall, it was our best team score of the season, and I'm very proud of how they performed," coach Kaiden Wilson said.
Girls basketball team ready for tourney
Seeded 14th, the girls basketball team will play host to 22nd-seeded Pickerington North or 24th-seeded Bradley in the second round of the Division I district tournament Friday, Feb. 23.
The winner faces fourth-seeded Reynoldsburg, 44th-seeded Briggs or 49th-seeded Whitehall in a district semifinal Feb. 28.
Big Walnut closed the regular season with lopsided victories over Franklin Heights (80-19 on Feb. 9) and Mansfield Madison (50-33 on Feb. 10) to improve to 16-6 overall. The Golden Eagles finished 6-4 in the OCC-Capital, tying Canal Winchester and New Albany for second behind Newark (10-0).
Boys basketball team preps for postseason
The boys basketball team is seeded 38th of 48 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play at seventh-seeded Gahanna in the first round Saturday, Feb. 24.
The winner plays 41st-seeded Briggs in a second-round game March 2.
The Golden Eagles were 9-11 overall and 5-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing Groveport on Feb. 16. They concluded the regular season Feb. 17 against Mount Vernon.
Big Walnut rolled to victories over Marion Harding (61-25) on Feb. 10 and Franklin Heights (57-35) on Feb. 9.
Kegan Hienton had 15 points to lead four Golden Eagles players in double figures against Marion Harding. Against Franklin Heights, Nathan Montgomery had 13 points and Carson Becker scored 10.
Bowlers prepping for postseason
The bowling teams are preparing to open the postseason later this week with the Division I sectional at HP Lanes.
The boys will compete Friday, Feb. 23, and the girls will compete Saturday, Feb. 24.
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on a qualifying team in both sectionals advance to the district tournament March 3 at HP Lanes.