The Northland High School wrestling program is hoping that having better participation numbers pays off this winter.

In their second season under coach Joe Murray, the Vikings have 23 wrestlers, including seven freshmen or sophomores who already have gained mat experience.

"We have some that are wrestling up a weight class because we want them to get matches," said Murray, who competed for Massillon Perry. "If everybody holds through, I should have 14 weight classes at (the City League tournament Feb. 16) and we'll see what we can do."

Mifflin won the City championship last season, scoring 186.5 points to finish ahead of East (174), West (162), Whetstone (141.5), Walnut Ridge (136), South (98), Linden-McKinley (76), Marion-Franklin (60), Northland (31), Centennial (25), Beechcroft (24) and Independence (6).

In the DeSales Classic on Dec. 1, the Vikings finished 11th (66) of 15 teams, behind champion Grove City (295.5), as junior Carlos Galdamez was runner-up at 170 pounds, freshman Abdirahman Moualem was fifth at 106, junior Olman Najar-Ayala placed sixth at 160 and senior Jairus Richardson finished sixth at 220.

Juniors Jose Alberto (182), Rasi Bailey (160) and Naseer Broadnax (138) are others who Murray is high on.

Other wrestlers include junior D'Angelo Gomez (132), sophomores Edwin Duran (120), Ahmed Salah (145) and Carlos Najar-Ayala and freshmen Ashraf Aldamen (220), Correy Craddolph (heavyweight) and Lawrence Reed (126).

Beechcroft, which finished 13th (35) at the DeSales Classic, has nine wrestlers, including three who are expected to become eligible for the season's second half.

Junior Alhaji Sidibe, who was one of the top players for the Cougars' football team, was seventh at 220 at the DeSales Classic.

Junior Aloysious Kamara placed third at 113 in the City tournament last season and is now competing at 126.

Other wrestlers include junior Ibrahim Kamara (160) and sophomores Elijah Cottle (132) and Demetrius Haynes (152).

"Last year we started out with about 10 to 14 kids, but we only finished with five kids in the room," second-year coach Mac Conkling said. "We actually ran a spring weight room. Alhaji Sidibe is back and we're expecting a lot from him this year from just what he's done in the offseason going to open mats and a camp. With the confidence he had on the football field, he said it was because of wrestling."

Punchers, Scots plan for wrestling success

After having a run of three consecutive City League dual and tournament titles snapped last season, the Walnut Ridge wrestling team could have the depth to earn back those championships this winter.

The Scots have four returning Division I district qualifiers, two others who placed at sectional and another who won a sectional match last season.

"We've got quite a few back," fifth-year coach Steve Ayers said. "I'm excited. The kids are excited, especially those kids coming back from last year that are back in the room."

Returning after competing at district last season are seniors Nykeese Averett (182) and Angel Sambois (132 or 138) and juniors Yaniel Castillo (120) and Sihlas Padmore (160).

In the Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational on Dec. 1 at Upper Arlington, the Scots finished seventh (67.5) of 10 teams, behind champion UA (255), as Padmore and sophomore Jenrri Molina (120) both placed fourth. Molina was a district alternate last season.

Senior Mohammadou Diouf (170), junior James Miller (195) and sophomore Melvin Patterson (152) are other key returnees.

Newcomers include seniors Jordan Bixler (126) and Naes Vanterpool (138 or 145), junior Amarion Williams (220 or heavyweight) and freshmen Billy Chambers (heavyweight), Victorio Cirilo (220 or heavyweight), Lamar Hammock (132), Junior Marcelin (heavyweight) and Traisean Vanterpool (106 or 113).

"We've got numbers, and the kids are excited and working hard," Ayers said.

East, which was runner-up in the City tournament last season, returns a pair of Division II district qualifiers in junior Ammaar Salaam (106) and senior Prince Galloway (220).

Mifflin beat West 38-36 to capture last year's City dual championship and returns one district qualifier in senior Eric Shaw (170 or 182). Shaw also won the City tournament title at 170 last season.

Other key returnees include juniors Dewon Ellison (132) and Karon Mitchell (126) and sophomore Ajoure Lawrence (138).

In the Bad Apple Brawl on Dec. 1 at Mount Vernon, the Punchers finished seventh (141) of 12 teams, behind the host and champion Yellow Jackets (459), as Shaw was runner-up at 182 and freshman Braylan Duersen placed third at 113.

Freshmen Marcus Hayden (106) and David Cochran (120) also are key contributors.

"I've got a bunch of young guys, but they wrestled really, really good (at Mount Vernon)," coach Caska Thompson said. "We're going to come in with a full lineup, and I know there will be a lot of hard work. I hope to try and win the league again."

West had a pair of Division I state qualifiers last season in brothers Matthew Shaw (220) and Dawson Shaw (heavyweight), but both were lost to graduation and coach Felix Catheline left to take over at Watterson.

Cougars swimming program growing

After having seven competitors last season, the Beechcroft boys and girls swimming and diving program has 10 athletes and joins Centennial, Eastmoor and Whetstone as City schools that have competitors this winter.

Junior Zora Whitfield is in her third season with the program, and her sister, freshman Nyrobi Whitfield, also is competing.

Seniors Patricia Cornejo Aranda and Nina Goldsmith, junior Anahi Cornejo Aranda and freshman Lily Braaksma are other girls in the program.

The boys team is comprised of senior Luke Bocook, juniors Jaime Cornejo Aranda and Preston Ratcliff and freshman Don Veir Rookard.

"I'm excited about my girls team this year," coach Dan Zedeker said. "Hopefully, we're going to have a boys relay and a girls relay."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek