First-year Westland High School wrestling coach Mark Niemann brought an enthusiasm to the program that he hopes to carry into future seasons.
The Cougars qualified three wrestlers for the Division I district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby and nearly had a state qualifier in junior Andrew Sherman.
"There are elements that I'm happy about and there are also elements that I'm not happy about, but I do my best not to let those affect the things that I'm happy about," said Niemann, who previously coached at Groveport.
"Certain guys stuck it out and committed to get better. That's huge. Also, the guys started hitting the moves that we were learning in practice, which is another step in the right direction."
At district, Sherman reached a semifinal at 182 pounds before settling for sixth. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
"I did well considering the competition," said Sherman, who finished the season 34-16. "It was an honor to wrestle with those guys. I am blessed to say I placed sixth at district. I now have new goals for the offseason and next season. I want to be a state qualifier and hopefully a placer. I am aware I am in a tough weight class and only dedication to wrestling will make that happen."
Junior Kyle Newman went 1-2 at 195 to finish 14-18.
Sophomore Edgar Cruz (113) qualified for his second district tournament but withdrew because of an illness and finished 20-10. Last season, he went 0-2 at 106 at district to finish 28-18.
The Cougars finished 33rd (10 points) at district behind champion Lancaster (170) as 38 teams scored.
In a 10-team sectional Feb. 24, Westland finished eighth (66) behind champion and host Marysville (279). Cruz and Sherman both finished second while Newman was fourth.
Senior Steve McPeek was a district alternate by finishing fifth at 138. He went 17-21 this season.
"Steven did a great job for us," Niemann said. "He really enjoyed the sport of wrestling and he brought an energy to the (practice) room that I'm going to miss quite a bit."
Freshman Bryson Palmer finished 17-13 at 120 and showed promise, Niemann said.
"Bryson had a great season," Niemann said. "He wrestled in a tough sectional. Coming in from junior high, it's tough at the high school level."
Senior heavyweight Soriba Kaba missed the season with a right shoulder injury sustained during football season. Last season, he went 1-2 at 220 at district to finish 25-19.
Other wrestlers eligible to return are juniors Anthony Johnson (145/152), Angel Lopez (120), Juan Martinez (152) and Francisco Vinalay Jr. (220), sophomores William Frederick (120) and Darius Lightfoot (152) and freshmen Dominic Fogt (120), Payton Hayes (195) and Hayden Hughes (heavyweight).
"I like what I have coming back," Niemann said.
Westland went 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division to finish sixth behind Dublin Coffman (5-0), Marysville (4-1), Hilliard Davidson (3-2), Upper Arlington (2-3) and Central Crossing (1-4).
Niemann and Shawn Penn co-founded the wrestling webcast "Inside the Circle" in 2013. He maintained the webcast throughout the season while also guiding the Cougars.
"I cannot wait until next year," Niemann said. "A few things have to be ironed out for me, but other than that, I'm ready. Let's do it."
McClure earns all-state honor
Trinity McClure, a junior point guard on the girls basketball team, recently was named special mention all-state in Division I.
McClure, who also was first-team all-league and second-team all-district, averaged a team-high 25.7 points.
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Finishes: Sixth in OCC-Central, eighth at sectional, 33rd at district
*Seniors lost: Soriba Kaba, Jose Martinez and Steve McPeek
*Key returnees: Edgar Cruz, Kyle Newman, Bryson Palmer and Andrew Sherman