The Delaware Hayes High School wrestling team has returned the bulk of its athletes who helped the Pacers earn a share of the OCC-Cardinal Division championship last season.
Junior Mason Sutandar, a Division I state qualifier at 170 pounds last season, is expected to lead the way for first-year co-coaches Kevin Rieman and Josh Lamb.
Rieman and Lamb were assistants under former coach Josh Heffernan, who is now coaching first-year Olentangy Berlin after guiding the Pacers for 12 seasons.
"Mason has worked extremely hard his entire career but has picked it up after he got a taste of the state tournament last season," Rieman said. "He has goals of reaching the state podium, which is very realistic for him over the next couple of years.
"As a team, we really want to bring home another OCC title. They also have aspirations of competing well and advancing in the team state dual (tournament), and many individuals have goals of reaching state for the first time as well."
Sutandar went 0-2 at state last year and finished the season 28-19. Also returning are three district qualifiers in seniors Jacob McCloskey (195) and Zach Williams (138) and junior Corbin May (182). May finished 32-16 at 160 last year, Williams went 31-16 at 132 and McCloskey was 20-17 at 182.
The Pacers, who went 5-1 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to share the title with Hilliard Bradley, have returned 11 letterwinners.
The other returnees are juniors Tristan Burton (145), Emmett Cain (160), Zack Raquepaw (132), Nate Robinson (220) and Ethan Rupp (126) and sophomores Tamas Eder (106) and Clay Ours (195).
Cain went 14-3 at 170 last year and Robinson was 21-15 at 220.
"May and McCloskey both decided to gain strength and move up in weight class and that helps our team tremendously," Rieman said. "Emmett Cain was stuck behind Mason last year and dropped weight to get to 160. It will be awesome to get him in the starting lineup.
"Zack Raquepaw has shown tremendous growth and Tamas Eder really worked hard to put on muscle and will be a true 106 this season. Tamas is becoming a quiet leader."
Among the newcomers are juniors Brian Frisch (152) and Zach Pokorny (heavyweight), sophomore Ryan Chupko (120/126) and freshmen Maddox Edwards (145/152) and Thomas Ross (106/113).
"We have great depth in our upper weights," Rieman said. "Many of our guys that will be competing on j.v. or varsity B would be starters for other programs. We plan to get them as much varsity experience as possible and help them grow. The depth makes them better practice partners and strengthens the entire team.
"Some of our lightweights will feature younger guys who will be competing on varsity without much experience. These guys will learn and grow during the season and be prepared for big meets at the end of the year."
Swim teams possess strong core group
The swimming and diving teams have a core group that are seeking a return to the Division I state meet this season and will be looking for teammates to join them.
Achieving that goal may be more difficult for the boys team, however, because of a small roster.
Half of the boys 200-yard freestyle relay did not return this season after finishing 15th at state a year ago and setting a school record in the state preliminaries with a time of 1 minute, 27.46 seconds at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Seniors Kael Gannon and Lucas Pape have returned, but Andrew Parker graduated and sophomore Zach Ward opted to compete with his club team this winter.
"We've got 12 boys on the roster and half of them competed at district last year, but five are freshmen and two are divers," second-year coach Jordan Nichol said. "We will have trouble scoring well as a team, but the team is close and they're all working hard, so you never know."
Also returning are seniors Paul Carter and Luke McCarthy and juniors Caleb Bucher, Aidan Stojkov and Sam Sulek (diver).
"Kyle is very committed to improving not only his times, but those around him," Nichol said. "He is very determined and is constantly looking for ways to improve. Lucas is seeking to drop time in both the 50 and 100 free."
Newcomers are freshmen Max Etheridge, Ryan Gray, Jake Stein, Mark Sulek (diver) and David Wittibslager.
The girls team has returned 75 percent of its 200 free relay that placed 23rd (1:39.89) at state last season.
Returning from the relay are senior Valerie Keller, junior Lauren Ertz and sophomore Rena Ouyang. Senior Danielle Ward, like her brother, Zach, chose to compete with her club team this winter.
"It's unfortunate because both (of the Wards) are talented and Danielle has done so much for us in this program through the years," Nichol said. "But the girls have more depth and there's a lot more flexibility on their roster.
"(Valerie is) pushing her teammates at each workout and she hopes to continue to drop time in the sprint freestyle events."
Other returning district qualifiers are junior sisters Elizabeth Abahazi and Emily Abahazi and sophomore Maddie Richardson. In addition to the 200 free relay, Keller, Ertz and Ouyang were district qualifiers in individual events.
The Pacers have two other seniors in Natalie Johnson and Hannah Kelly.
Other returnees are juniors Katie Amrine, Evelyn Fowler, Olivia Reed and Marci Wheeler and sophomores Abby Richardson and Elizabeth Uniss. In diving, junior Payton Day and sophomore Kelsie Keeder have returned.
"Rena loves to race and swims well in all events, but I think she will focus on the 100 (butterfly) and 200 (individual medley)" Nichol said. "Liz Abahazi will play an important role in relays and aims to get to district in her individual events and Emily Abahazi is also working hard to meet her goals."
Newcomers are freshmen Isabel Crissinger, Arianna Denney, Kailyn Smith, Hannah Sturman and Ana Williams.
"Kailyn Smith has looked very good and Ana Williams is doing well, too," Nichol said. "Crissinger is a diver. I think overall, the girls have a chance to reach their goal of winning the (OCC-Cardinal) meet this year after finishing second last year."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Hilliard Davidson at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 1 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 3 -- Whetstone at Columbus Aquatics Center
Dec. 7 -- Swimming: at Columbus Academy; Diving: Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 8 -- Swimming: Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 21 -- Delaware County Classic Relays at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 22 -- Dublin Jerome at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 4-5 -- Delaware Invitational at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 9 -- Worthington Sprint Mid-Season Challenge at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 19 -- Presidential Pentathlon Plus at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 25 -- OCC-Cardinal diving meet at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Cardinal swimming meet at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 31 -- Marysville at Marysville YMCA
Dec. 1 -- Marysville Duals
Dec. 7 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial
*Dec. 13 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Dec. 14-15 -- Olentangy Liberty Classic
*Dec. 20 -- at Dublin Scioto
Dec. 27-28 -- Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament at Wright State
*Jan. 10 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*Jan. 17 -- at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 18-19 -- Top Gun Invitational at Alliance
*Jan. 24 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 26 -- Rieman Invitational at home
Jan. 31 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Feb. 7 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Feb. 9 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome
*Feb. 14 -- vs. Olentangy Berlin
Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys basketball, girls basketball and bowling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
Dec. 11 -- At Olentangy
*Dec. 14 -- At Dublin Scioto
*Dec. 12 -- Olentangy Orange at Colony Lanes
*Dec. 13 -- Newark at Park Lanes