Although his team has lacked depth because of injuries, Whitehall-Yearling High School wrestling coach Steve Pennington has been pleased with the development of several of his athletes.
The lack of depth was evident during the six-team Golden Eagle Duals on Jan. 12 at Madison Plains, as the Rams went 2-3 while giving up 24 points by forfeit in each match.
Whitehall defeated London 45-24 and Madison Plains 35-28 but lost to Westerville South 51-27, Big Walnut 48-32 and Liberty Union 54-30. South finished first at 5-0.
"We thought we could do better than that, but we forfeited four weight classes so we were giving up 24 points every match," Pennington said. "If I would have had my full lineup, we would have went 5-0. We wrestled really well. It was just the open weight classes that killed us."
A key contributor for the Rams has been sophomore Mike Dawkins, a transfer from Hartley who went 5-0 at Madison Plains at 132 pounds to improve to 23-4 on the season.
As a freshman with the Hawks, he finished sixth at 120 in a Division II sectional at Licking Valley to close the season 16-16.
Dawkins credits rigorous offseason training for his improvement.
"I've been working really hard for this," he said. "I wasn't happy with how last season was going, so I just decided to put in extra hours and work hard for it."
Dawkins, who is home-schooled, decided to wrestle for his hometown program.
"When he joined the team because he was transferring in, there was a little bit of hype around him," Pennington said. "When we saw him during early practices and the first tournament we didn't know if he was as good as advertised, but he is wrestling amazing right now and we're really happy. He's been a pleasant surprise."
Dawkins plans to cut weight to 126 for the postseason and doesn't expect any issues competing in Division I.
"I was just growing," he said of competing at 132 so far this season. "I plan to go to 126 before sectional. It's been a growing experience from being a first-year wrestler (last season when) stuff seemed pretty hard, but after working and coming to Whitehall it's been a learning process for me."
Seniors Raashad Strickland (120) and Alex Rodriguez (113) also went 5-0 at Madison Plains. Strickland is 23-2 on the season and Rodriguez is 22-8.
Strickland missed his junior season with a right knee injury sustained during football.
Jace Peck (145, knee), Bradley Holley (160, shoulder) and Andrew Dickens (220, concussion) missed the Golden Eagle Duals with injuries. The Rams forfeited matches at 113, 145, 152 and 160.
"I like that we're getting better every time we get on the mat," Pennington said. "We're a very young team. (We have) two seniors (in Rodriguez and Strickland), one junior (in Dickens) and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. They're learning (and) they are improving. We're really not getting a bunch of wins, but they're getting better, so I'm hoping by the time the postseason comes around they've learned enough and improved enough that we can have some success."
Boys basketball team to visit Bexley
The boys basketball team will look for a season sweep of Bexley when it visits the Lions on Friday, Jan. 18.
The Rams, who are 2-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division, defeated the Lions 38-21 on Dec. 8.
Whitehall was 6-4 overall before playing DeSales on Jan. 15.
The Rams lost to visiting Logan 49-37 on Jan. 8. Taylon Cofer scored 13 points and Roshean Bagley had 10.
Whitehall's home game with Columbus Academy on Jan. 12 was postponed because of bad weather.
Girls team breaks even through 12 games
The girls basketball team was 6-6 overall before playing Groveport on Jan. 15.
Whitehall lost at Bexley 40-31 in overtime Jan. 11 after the Rams couldn't hold a 19-11 halftime lead.
London Coleman and Jewel Watkins each scored 10 points for the Rams, who are 3-2 in the MSL-Ohio.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- At Bexley. The Rams defeated the Lions 38-21 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 19 -- At Gahanna
Jan. 22 -- At St. Charles
Jan. 17 -- At Heath
Jan. 19 -- At Beechcroft
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. West Jefferson
*Jan. 17 -- Hilliard Davidson at Ten Pin Alley
Jan. 19 -- Muskingum University Invitational at Park Lanes
Jan. 17 -- At Utica