There might not be a better high school wrestling duo in central Ohio -- or possibly even the state -- than what Olentangy Liberty figures to bring to the mat each time it competes this winter.
Exactly who will emerge around senior Carson Kharchla, the defending Division I state champion at 170 pounds, and classmate Connor Brady, who was third at state at 152 as a sophomore, is the biggest matter to be determined for what has been one of the area's deepest programs the last several seasons.
"We've had two really big senior classes (in a row) and three of the last four years we've had big senior classes," 12th-year coach Mark Marinelli said. "We have two great wrestlers, but depth-wise you're going to lose a little bit of numbers."
The Patriots opened Dec. 1 by placing second (275) behind Grove City (295.5) in the 15-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales. They next compete in the home Liberty Classic on Dec. 14 and 15.
Kharchla, who went 38-2 last season and also won the Junior Freestyle national title in July in Fargo, North Dakota, has committed to Ohio State.
Brady is a Virginia Tech commit who missed last year's postseason with an injury and is expected to be at 160.
Junior Kaden Tong (220) and sophomores Jayce Fitzpatrick (145/152), Hunter Ford (113/120) and Josh Sutton (113) are returning district qualifiers, and junior Justin Callahan (182) was a district alternate last season.
Senior Brady Kuhn (heavyweight) and junior Nick Rutsky (106) are other top returnees.
Sophomore Lucas Uliano, who was a third-place finisher in the Iowa state tournament last season, is a move-in who figures to compete at 120 or 126.
Others who should contribute include senior Chase Dormire (145/152), juniors Austin Bensman (132/138), Ben Cox (195), Ethan Stamp (145/152) and Austin Tormasi (195) and sophomores Mark Ceddia (132/138) and Jack Freitag (132/138).
At DeSales, Bensman was first at 138, Uliano won at 126 and Callahan was first at 182 while Dormire was second at 145 and Ford was runner-up at 113.
Liberty won the OCC-Buckeye Division title last season at 5-0 and was eighth at state, with 2018 graduate Trevor Lawson finishing second at 182, 2018 graduate Jordan Rosselli going 1-2 at 126 and Blake Saito finishing eighth at 132. Lawson is competing for Lindsey Wilson College, Rosselli is competing for Oklahoma and Saito is a junior who also was a state qualifier as a freshman but moved out of the district.
Luke Blaine (120) and Davin Lambert (heavyweight) were other district qualifiers lost to graduation. Blaine is now competing for Mount Union,
"We've been doing a lot of learning," Marinelli said. "That's what we need to do with a young team."
Boys basketball team plans to bounce back
The boys basketball team had won five of six games and seemed to be hitting its stride just three weeks before the 2018 postseason when it lost its top player.
Ben Roderick was averaging 24.4 points and had just surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career shortly before suffering a season-ending left knee injury during a 73-66 win over Olentangy last January.
The Patriots, who went on to finish 11-13 overall 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye, again have the 6-foot-5 forward on the court this winter as part of a six-player senior class.
Roderick has offers from a group of Division I colleges that includes Ohio University, Toledo and Duquesne.
"You can't even tell which knee it was (that Roderick injured)," 11th-year coach Greg Nossaman said. "Whenever he goes in for layups I kind of cringe, but he seems to be doing OK. He's getting his legs beneath him. Hopefully he'll have a good senior year."
Liberty opened Dec. 1 by losing 74-73 to Cincinnati Taft in the All-Ohio Nike Showcase at Gahanna.
Roderick scored 29 points, including making a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds to go. He then got a rebound off a missed free throw but had the ball knocked away and time expired.
Senior Nick Nakasian, a 6-3 guard, scored 17 points in Liberty's 56-44 loss to Northland in the second round of last year's Division I district tournament. A Carnegie Mellon commit, he averaged 13.5 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Senior Mitchell Kershner, a 6-3 forward/guard, is a Rochester commit who averaged 10.5 points and was honorable mention all-league.
The other seniors are Llwyatt Hofer (6-4, forward), Jack Metzger (6-4, guard/forward) and Joey Thatcher (5-9, guard).
Thatcher and 5-10 sophomore Henry Hinkle are expected to see time at point guard.
Juniors Colin Brenner (6-3, forward), Tyson Chapman (5-10, guard), Cal Jayaraman (6-4, wing player), A.J. Rausch (5-10, guard) and Ben Wrather (6-3, post player) are others looking to contribute.
Senior Mitchell Okuley, who averaged seven points last season at guard but also helped the football team to a state semifinal this fall and the baseball team to the state title last spring, is not playing this winter. He is an Ohio State baseball commit.
Post player Dan McFarland averaged seven points but was lost to graduation.
In addition to facing Taft, Liberty competes in a tournament Dec. 26-28 in Pensacola, Florida, travels to Kettering Fairmont on Jan. 19 to face Centerville in the Flyin' to the Hoop and plays perennially strong area teams such as Gahanna (Jan. 8), Pickerington North (Jan. 26 in the Scholastic Play by Play Classic at Pickerington Central) and Newark (Feb. 5).
"It could be a good winter," Nossaman said. "This is the toughest schedule we've had. We've bulked up our non-league schedule and of course we've got our league. Westerville North has got a lot back, Westerville South has got some good guards back, Olentangy's got some good guards and so does Orange."
Liberty opens OCC-Buckeye play Friday, Dec. 7, against visiting Orange.
Dec. 1 -- Cincinnati Taft in All-Ohio Nike Showcase at Gahanna
*Dec. 7 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 14 -- at Westerville South
Dec. 15 -- at Marysville
*Dec. 21 -- vs. Westerville North
Dec. 26 -- Harrison (Ga.) in Pensacola (Fla.) Tournament
Dec. 27 -- New Orleans Brother Martin in Pensacola (Fla.) Tournament
Dec. 28 -- Johns Creek (Ga.) in Pensacola (Fla.) Tournament
*Jan. 4 -- at Westerville Central
Jan. 5 -- vs. Huber Heights Wayne
Jan. 8 -- vs. Gahanna
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Olentangy
*Jan. 18 -- at Olentangy Orange
Jan. 19 -- Centerville in Flyin' to the Hoop at Kettering Fairmont
Jan. 22 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Westerville South
Jan. 26 -- Pickerington North in Scholastic Play by Play Classic at Pickerington Central
*Feb. 1 -- at Westerville North
Feb. 5 -- vs. Newark
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Westerville Central
Feb. 9 -- at Cincinnati Hughes
*Feb. 15 -- at Olentangy
Dec. 1 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic
Dec. 28-29 -- Brecksville Holiday Tournament at Brecksville-Broadview Heights
*Jan. 10 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Jan. 11 -- vs. Olentangy
*Jan. 17 -- at Westerville South
Jan. 25 -- vs. Massillon Perry
Jan. 26 -- Grizzly Invitational at Wadsworth
Jan. 31 -- vs. Delaware
*Feb. 7 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Feb. 14 -- at Westerville North
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Olentangy Orange
Dec. 8 -- Dublin Coffman at Quicken Loans Arena
Dec. 11 -- At Worthington Kilbourne with Coffman, Dublin Jerome and Dublin Scioto
*Dec. 9 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State