Count Canal Winchester boys basketball coach Lyndell Snyder as one person who correctly predicted that forward Cole Metzler would have a dominant junior season.
"Cole is playing hard every play instead of every other play," Snyder said in late November. "He's a beast inside."
Two months later, the 6-foot-5 Metzler is living up to Snyder's expectations. The two-year starter has utilized increased intensity and a more muscular frame to become one of the primary scorers and rebounders for an Indians team that got off to its best start in 30 years despite losing its first game of the season last week.
Canal Winchester was 15-1 overall before playing Hilliard Darby on Jan. 29 and is 6-1 in the OCC-Capital Division, tied for first place with Newark, entering a Friday, Feb. 1, game at Franklin Heights. The Indians' first loss came at Groveport, 70-64 on Jan. 25.
Metzler was averaging 14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds through 16 games, a substantial increase from his 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds of a season ago, when Canal Winchester went 13-11 and appeared in a district semifinal for the first time since 2010.
He bulked up from 180 to 200 pounds, with muscle accounting for almost all of that gain.
"I try to go after every rebound I can. That's always been my game, getting rebounds and scoring inside, posting up and driving to the basket," Metzler said after a 28-point, 17-rebound performance in a 97-67 win over Westland on Jan. 22. "I worked all offseason trying to add an outside shot to my game, too. I am mainly an inside guy, but I wanted to add an outside aspect."
Both totals against Westland were career-bests for Metzler, who had 27 points in a 101-54 rout of Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 13. That began a stretch that saw the Indians average 94.3 points in their next four games.
"I saw this coming. Cole has always worked hard and he is very athletic," forward Zach Miles said. "I think that's the big thing with him."
According to Snyder, Metzler's mental growth has been just as key to his success as his physical improvements.
"Last year we had to (tell Metzler) 'don't travel, don't take too long to make a play' and now that's not the case. He is making all sorts of plays. His basketball IQ is getting better. He is anticipating instead of reacting," Snyder said. "Cole flipped a switch knowing that he is bigger, faster and stronger and he has decided to play that way. His effort level from last year to now is night and day and that is showing in the way he's scoring, the way he is rebounding the ball. He has a lot of confidence and we have a lot of confidence in him as a coaching staff."
According to Snyder, the best start in program history came in his senior season of 1988-89, when the Indians won their first 18 games.
"We pass up good shots for great shots. We have a very unselfish team and I really like that," he said. "They always make the extra pass. They have been playing long enough to know what is a good shot and what is a great shot. I always write that on the board before games. We are hot right now, but that could end (in our next game)."
Through 16 games, Bilal Sow was averaging 19.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and Brady Snyder was averaging 18.6 points.
"Somebody can have an off night and we can still come out and win a game," Metzler said. "I don't think anybody really cares who scores the most points in a given game. We all just want to win and that's shown so far this season, but it's nice knowing you don't have to score every single point."
Swimmers win four events at league meet
Korbin Martino's wins in the 50-yard freestyle (22.14 seconds) and 100 free (50.42) led the boys swimming team to a third-place finish in the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 26 at New Albany, and the girls team placed second.
Blake Fry won the 100 breaststroke (1:01.54) and was second in the 200 free (1:49.76) to help lead the boys team to 203 points, third behind New Albany (445) and Big Walnut (281) and ahead of Groveport (114) and Newark (53).
Fry and Martino were on the second-place 200 free (1:38.15) and 200 medley (1:48.88) relays with Corey Berner and Lucas Elizondo, while the 400 free relay of Will Butler, Carson Reeb, Brett Smithers and Tyler Terflinger placed third (4:15.26).
The girls team scored 271 points to finish behind the host Eagles (486) and ahead of Big Walnut (167), Newark (128) and Groveport (115).
Grace Riddle won the 100 backstroke (1:01.89), placed second in the 50 free (25.18) and was on the second-place 200 free relay (1:47.45) with Madison Burris, Karenna Reed and Mikaela Vojacek and runner-up 200 medley relay (2:00.56) with Burris, Reed and Grace Terflinger.
Burris finished second in the 100 free (58.13) and third in the 50 free (26.51), Terflinger placed second in the 100 breast (1:16.51) and the 400 free relay of Merideth McFarland, Sydney Somers, Lauren Stone and Vojacek was second (4:21.11).
Wrestlers working during break
The wrestling team is in the middle of a two-week stretch without matches, which coach Harrison Rosch said comes with positives and negatives.
"It gives us some time to get refreshed, put some fuel in the tank and get healthy," Rosch said after a 46-30 loss at New Albany on Jan. 24 that dropped the Indians to 0-3 in the OCC-Capital. "The break stinks a little because last week (the Panther Invitational on Jan. 19 at Pickerington North) got canceled (because of bad weather). Originally, we'd have three Saturdays in a row and then take a few weekends off, but time off is always good because you can get your body healthy. We're getting to that point in the season where we're wrestling most Thursdays and Saturdays. It's good to have a weekend or two where we're not doing anything."
The Indians' next competition is Feb. 7 at home against Newark, two days before their annual Canal Winchester Invitational.
Rosch hopes that Cian Rose, who has been out since mid-December because of rotator cuff and shoulder issues, will be able to return to the lineup at 126 pounds in time for the team's final regular-season match Feb. 14 at Franklin Heights.
Chance Brown (160), Brack Byorth (220), Michael Gallagher (132), Jared Mattox (170) and Ethan McGlone (138) earned wins against New Albany. Byorth outlasted Zach Rutledge 9-7 in overtime and Brown and Mattox pinned their opponents in 71 and 38 seconds, respectively.
The Indians' earlier league losses were against Groveport (43-21 on Jan. 10) and Big Walnut (42-24 on Jan. 17).
"Our young guys did well (against New Albany), but we gave up too many pins, and with the (three) forfeits we gave up, that made it a tough night," Rosch said. "You want to get some pins and not give any up. A lot of times, that's what duals come down to. We'll find positives, move forward and keep getting better."
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 1 -- At Franklin Heights. The Indians defeated the Falcons 71-44 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- At Pickerington North
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Indians defeated the Falcons 76-23 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 2 -- Hartley, Reynoldsburg and Teays Valley at St. Charles in makeup from Jan. 20