With an upperclassman-laden lineup and most key contributors from the Upper Arlington High School wrestling team's best postseason in years, the Golden Bears aren't shying away from high expectations.
"We want to place at the (Division I) district tournament and get more than two guys to state," said senior Joey Orlando, one of seven returning district qualifiers. "I think we have the potential to have six or seven (state qualifiers) if everything works out and we all keep working as hard as we have been.
"So far, the expectations are the highest they've been since I've been here. Placing at district was really the expectation when I came in as a freshman. Now, you're a state qualifier or you haven't met your goal. Expectations are very high."
One of the Bears' two state qualifiers from a year ago has returned in junior Jesse Bowers, who went 35-13 overall but 0-2 at state. He wrestled at 120 pounds last year but is up to 145 this season.
UA's other returning district qualifiers are senior Holden Freeman (195) and juniors Daniel Beam (113), Miles Pearson (152), Jacob Shanklin (132) and David Soghomonyan (170).
The Bears, whose seventh-place finish at district was their best since 1993, began their season Dec. 1 by winning their annual Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational.
Bowers, Freeman and sophomore Jake Thomas (106) won their respective classes as UA amassed 255 points to edge runner-up Vandalia Butler (247) in the 10-team event.
"From 106 to 152, we are pretty set, I think. I am really excited for this year," Freeman said. "I see a lot of people who want to get better and improve. Every time we go into the room, I know there is a lot of good attitude and a lot of skill. We work hard and we're talented. That's about the best combination I can think of."
The Bears' other state qualifier from last year, senior Mitch Herren, currently is not with the team because of unrelated issues and eighth-year coach Matt Stout is unsure whether he will wrestle this year. Bowers and Herren, who placed eighth at 113, were UA's first state qualifiers since 2013.
"Expectations are high because we have an older team now. We've built the roster up with juniors and seniors," Stout said. "They know what to expect and they're willing to work hard."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Sebastian Chambers (152/160) and Gavin Shafer (182), juniors Wes Hurt (160), Garrett Jepson (220), Connor McClure (120), Mason McHugh (152/160) and Quentin Zimmer (145/152), sophomores Andy Allen (heavyweight), Rafe Lynd (heavyweight) and George Orlando (126) and freshmen Ayden Boothby (120) and Larry Stelzer (126).
UA begins OCC-Central Division competition Jan. 10 at Hilliard Davidson. The Bears went 2-3 in the league last year to finish fourth behind champion Dublin Coffman (5-0).
"We were close to winning the sectional again last year," Stout said. "We haven't won a league title in 29 years, since I was a senior in high school (1990). That was after we'd won the league (the OCC-Ohio) six times in eight years. We want to try to get that monkey off our back. We think we can get five or six guys to state. Those are ambitious goals for a program that hasn't done that in a long time."
Spielman moves atop girls scoring list
Macy Spielman admitted before the season that becoming the girls basketball program's all-time leading scorer would be a nice accolade but not an ultimate goal.
On Nov. 28, the senior guard moved past former teammate Kortney Eisenman and 2004 graduate Michele DeVault into first-place all-time, scoring 18 points in an 81-49 loss to Newark. That gave her 1,131 career points at the time, two more than DeVault and Eisenman, who graduated in 2016.
Spielman added 18 points in a 63-55 win at Northland on Dec. 1, and UA was 2-1 overall before its OCC-Central opener Dec. 4 against Coffman.
"It's definitely a cool accomplishment, but I don't like to get caught up in it. I'm just trying to have fun," said Spielman, a Bowling Green recruit who set the new record with a basket early in the fourth quarter against Newark. "It's an honor to have that title, but I think I'd much rather be known for being a good teammate and a good student at UA. I know in five years people aren't going to remember me as the girl who is the all-time leading scorer. I have to give credit to my teammates and my coaching staff and the community for supporting me along the way. I couldn't have done it without them."
Dec. 1 -- Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at home
Dec. 6 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Dec. 8 -- at Dublin Scioto with Mount Orab Western Brown
Dec. 15 -- Firebird Classic at Kettering Fairmont
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament
*Jan. 10 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 11-12 -- Fairfield Invitational Tournament
*Jan. 17 -- vs. Central Crossing
Jan. 19 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
*Jan. 24 -- at Marysville
Jan. 26 -- at Steubenville with Lisbon Beaver
Jan. 31 -- at Olentangy Berlin
*Feb. 7 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Feb. 9 -- All-North Invitational at Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 14 -- at Westland
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 7 -- At Central Crossing
Dec. 10 -- At Watterson
Dec. 12 -- At Marysville with DeSales and Westerville Central
*Dec. 9 -- Olentangy Liberty at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State