Two years ago as a sophomore for the Dublin Jerome High School wrestling team, Lane Williams was unable to compete in the postseason because of a broken collarbone.

Things went slightly better last season as he went 27-11, but he was unable to win a match in a Division I sectional at 132 pounds.

Williams and his teammates have a much higher outlook as they prepare for this year's postseason.

Jerome had two qualifiers but didn't score a point in the Division I district tournament in 2017 and had no district qualifiers last season.

With a 42-29 victory over Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 23, however, the Celtics improved to 4-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, setting up a dual against Hilliard Darby on Feb. 7 that will impact the league championship race. Delaware also is 4-1 in the league.

Williams is 26-7 at 138 and is among several Celtics who have enjoyed significantly more success this season.

"A large part of it is confidence," Williams said. "Last year I knew everything, but I wasn't very confident in myself. This year I went to a different club (in the offseason) and I've been wrestling more confidently and beating guys I shouldn't be beating."

Williams is one of just two seniors in the program along with John Huber (170).

On Jan. 26 in the Jimmy Wood Memorial at New Lexington, Jerome placed eighth (121) of 23 teams behind champion Lancaster (255.5) as Williams finished third and Huber was fifth.

Ezra Strickland (145) finished fourth, while Joe Huber (220) placed fifth and Jack Viola (106) and Zach McMinn (heavyweight) both finished sixth.

Viola is 27-10 on the season and McMinn is 25-9.

Because of some of the struggles Jerome had last season, it elected not to compete in the team dual tournament, but that likely will change next season considering nearly all of its key wrestlers are eligible to return.

"Last year I told the boys, 'As long as you believe in the process, you'll be rewarded,' and they definitely were rewarded (against Bradley)," coach Matt White said. "They've definitely wrestled really well, and just the way they were winning was really impressive. You could see in their faces that it was contagious."

Jerome is off until the dual against Darby and then will be host to the All-North Tournament on Feb. 9 before closing the regular season Feb. 14 at Scioto. The postseason begins Feb. 23 with a sectional tournament at one of four sites.

Williams, who is considering wrestling at Otterbein or John Carroll, isn't planning to let his final prep opportunity go to waste.

"(Williams has) consistently been in championship matches and actually won a tournament (the Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 8)," White said. "What we need for Lane now that he's wrestling at that high level is to take that next step, which is wrestling state-caliber quality kids and be able to perform at that level and make a deep run into the tournament."

Girls basketball team finding comfort zone

Since the beginning of the 2019 portion of its schedule, the girls basketball team had won six of eight games before facing New Albany on Jan. 29.

The Celtics likely are no longer in the title race in the OCC-Cardinal after losing 49-40 to Thomas Worthington on Jan. 25, but their hopes of setting themselves up for winnable games in the Division I district tournament are plausible.

"Our team is finally coming together," senior guard Demi Brewer said. "After all our losses, I think we're tired of it and are going to be stronger the whole season now. (We've been working on) making the big play to get our team excited, taking a charge or a nice 3-point shot, just something to get us hyped to finish the game."

Jerome was 8-8 overall before facing New Albany and is 6-5 in the league heading into its game Friday, Feb. 1, at Darby. League contests remain Tuesday, Feb. 5, at home against Bradley and Feb. 8 at home against Delaware.

The Celtics lost to Bradley 44-42 on Dec. 21, but they beat Darby 43-38 on Jan. 4 and Delaware 45-37 on Jan. 8.

The district tournament drawing is Sunday, Feb. 3.

Brewer, who was averaging 9.1 points through 16 games, scored 23 in a 56-44 win over Olentangy Berlin on Jan. 22.

Through 16 games, junior guard Jamie Cline was averaging a team-high 11.3 points and sophomore guard/wing player Amaris Lowery was averaging 8.9.

The only other senior is post player Nicole Greiwe.

"Last year, we only had two seniors, too, so it's pretty normal," Greiwe said. "Our team is like a family."

Swim teams earn sweep of OCC titles

The boys and girls swimming and diving teams each captured OCC-Cardinal championships Jan. 26, with the boys earning their fifth league title in a row and seventh in eight seasons and the girls winning their second in a row and fifth in seven years.

The boys scored 398 points to easily top the eight-team field as Delaware (183) was runner-up.

Capturing titles were the Carson Smith in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 48.44 seconds), Ian Smith in the 50 free (21.95), Reid Newman in the 100 butterfly (53.93), Matt Shepard in the 100 free (49.69), the 200 medley relay of Austin Davis, Ronith Doddi, Newman and Shepard (1:40.34), the 200 free relay of Reno James, Carson Smith, Ian Smith and Shepard (1:29.61) and the 400 free relay of Davis, James, Carson Smith and Ian Smith (3:18.61).

Finishing second were Ian Smith in the 200 free (1:48.88), Shepard in the 50 free (22.41), Austin Wyner in the 100 free (51.03) and James in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.73).

The girls team scored 282.5 points to edge Delaware (262) for the league championship.

Winning titles for the Celtics were Maya Geringer in the 200 free (1:59.85) and 500 free (5:26.32), Kelsey Cooper in the 100 backstroke (1:00.1) and Alyssa Heinlen in diving (399.3).

Placing second were Lauren Smith in the 200 individual medley (2:18.34), Claudia Sherrer in the 100 back (1:03.98), Brenna Cooper in the 100 breast (1:09.9), the 200 medley relay of Kelsey Cooper, Brenna Cooper, Geringer and Macy Weeks (1:53.12) and the 400 free relay of Caitlyn Laycock, Weeks, Lauren Smith and Michelle Yang (3:52.88).

The Celtics next compete Feb. 9 in a Division I sectional at Kenyon College.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics and hockey teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby. The Celtics beat the Panthers 64-50 on Jan. 4.

*Feb. 5 -- At Hilliard Bradley. The Celtics lost to the Jaguars 60-51 on Dec. 21.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 1 -- At Darby. The Celtics beat the Panthers 43-38 on Jan. 4.

*Feb. 5 -- Home vs. Bradley. The Celtics lost to the Jaguars 44-42 on Dec. 21.

GYMNASTICS

Feb. 5 -- At *Thomas Worthington with Coffman, Scioto and Westerville Central

HOCKEY

*Feb. 1 -- Watterson at Chiller Dublin

*Feb. 3 -- St. Charles at Chiller Dublin. The Celtics beat the Cardinals 6-1 on Dec. 9.

*League contest