Sophomore Jake Nelson of the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team has displayed a lot of growth over the past 12 months.
As a freshman, Nelson was slightly over 5-foot-8 and weighed 160 pounds. He wrestled up a weight class and finished 39-9 at 170 after placing sixth in the Division I district tournament, falling two spots shy of a state berth.
Nelson now stands 5-11 and is competing at 195. He is 27-1 after suffering his first loss in the Miami Trace McDonald's Invitational on Jan. 26 in Washington Court House.
"I hit a growth spurt, but I worked hard to stay in shape and make adjustments," said Nelson, who placed third at Miami Trace. "I'd say 75 percent of the physical growth was natural and 25 percent of it came from trying to bulk up in the weight room."
Nelson lost 7-3 to Logan Elm's Bowen McConahay in the final, but likely will get a rematch Friday, Feb. 1, when the Cruisers compete in a tri-match against host Logan Elm and Amanda-Clearcreek.
Nelson will use the loss as motivation, much the same way he was motivated during the offseason by last year's district finish.
"I got injured in my state-qualifying match," he said. "I got a concussion and couldn't finish. I hit the mat and I was dizzy and everything was spinning. They gave me a concussion test and I failed and that was the end of my season and my dream to get to state as a freshman.
"I was almost there. I think about it all the time and it really motivated me over the summer. It's always in the back of my mind. I have to put it aside when I am competing and focus on doing all of the technical things and trying to set up my opponent. But every night before a meet, I think about that."
Nelson and the Cruisers are aiming for their third consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship. They improved to 3-0 in the league by beating Big Walnut 45-30 on Jan. 23. Their two remaining league duals are Feb. 7 at home against New Albany and Feb. 14 at Newark.
"Jake picked up where he left off last year and really fined-tuned some things," coach Brian Brison said. "We're really happy to see where he's at and can't wait to see what kind of damage he can do in the postseason. He's really focused.
"We've got a strong group of kids who are wrestling well right now and that's a good thing because New Albany is still unbeaten in the league and Newark has one loss, so anything can still happen. Nobody's going to give us anything. We've got to wrestle well in those final two league duals."
Of the Cruisers' 18 wrestlers who competed at Miami Trace, 16 won at least one match and 13 placed.
Muhamad Conteh (120 pounds), Marshaun Armstrong (160), Johnathan Thompson (170) and A.J. Joyce (220) all placed third, while Tykel Hancock (heavyweight) was fifth and Jacob Cline (152), Skyler Mouser (182) and Ethan Schleret (220) all placed sixth.
Finishing seventh were Eli Jackson (106), Jason Pinkston (113), Josh Aguon (126) and Trent Eaton (220).
Conteh improved to 27-2 and Mouser improved to 21-7. Others with strong records include Pinkston (19-5), Joyce (19-7), Thompson (17-6), Aguon (17-8), Armstrong (18-10) and Cline (15-7).
Boys team hands Indians first loss
The boys basketball team avenged an earlier loss to Canal Winchester and knocked the Indians from the unbeaten ranks with a 70-64 win on Jan. 25.
Nakhi Taylor scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and Groveport outscored the Indians 29-17 in the second quarter to take a 42-32 lead into halftime.
"Nakhi was super aggressive and stepped his game up," said coach Ryan Grashel, whose team improved to 10-7 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Capital. "He didn't defer and he also played great defensively.
"Scotty Lomax and Elijah Hawk also had strong games and all of our role players did a great job. This was the best we've played on both ends of the floor all season."
Lomax made three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 14 points and Hawk added 10 points.
"Scotty was averaging about four points per game and he gets 14 and Elijah was averaging about five points and he doubled his average. Plus, (Hawk) was efficient, going 5-for-6 from the floor," Grashel said. "Anytime you can beat your rival, it's a fun thing. But to beat an undefeated team and have everyone on the bench step up, it does a world of good for our confidence and will be helpful when it comes time for the (Division I district tournament) seeding."
Canal Winchester, which fell to 15-1 overall and 6-1 in the league, got no closer than five points in the fourth quarter.
"This was our third-best scoring output of the season, but the other two came against teams that are really struggling (Franklin Heights and Westland)," Grashel said. "We held (Canal Winchester) well under their recent scoring average. Plus, we've been banged up lately."
Tyrell Floyd (knee), Devin Singleton (ankle) and Raychaun Whitfield (back) all missed recent games because of injury. Singleton and Whitfield played sparingly against Canal Winchester and Elijah Monroe was returning after missing two days of practice with an unspecified injury.
"Devin and Raychaun gave it a go but weren't close to 100 percent, so we've been using a shorter rotation," Grashel said. "I think Martez Knight has done a great job stepping into the rotation and giving us great minutes."
Groveport hung with visiting Pickerington North on Jan. 22, but the Cruisers were outscored 24-7 in the third quarter and lost 66-54. Groveport, which trailed just 22-21 at halftime, was led by Knight, who scored 13 points. Taylor and Monroe scored nine points apiece and Lomax and Hawk both scored eight.
Keane, Newsom lead swimmers in OCC meet
Spencer Keane and Madison Newsom led the boys and girls swimming teams, respectively, in the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 26 at New Albany.
In the boys meet, Keane was runner-up in both the 100-yard freestyle (51.15 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.23), as the Cruisers finished fourth (114 points) behind the host Eagles (445), Big Walnut (281) and Canal Winchester (203) and ahead of Newark (53).
Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.
Jordan Murphy placed fifth in both the 50 free (25.83) and 100 free (58.93) and Trevor Keane was sixth in both the 200 individual medley (2:29.38) and 100 breast (1:14.29).
In the girls meet, Newsom was runner-up in the 500 free (5:49.24) and Jazlyn Winski was fifth in the 100 breast (1:18.75) and sixth in the 100 free (1:04.16), as the Cruisers finished fifth (115) behind New Albany (486), Canal Winchester (271), Big Walnut (167) and Newark (128).
Newsom and Winski also were on the third-place 200 medley relay (2:14.49) with Gabby Monjaras and Haylee Ottman. The 200 free relay of Monjaras, Winski, Ottman and Katelyn Kirk also placed third (2:05.93).
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 1 -- At New Albany. The Cruisers beat the Eagles 46-37 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 2 -- At St. Charles in makeup from Jan. 19
Feb. 5 -- At Lancaster
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. New Albany. The Cruisers lost to the Eagles 55-26 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Feb. 1 -- Delaware at Colony Lanes
Feb. 1 -- At Logan Elm with Amanda-Clearcreek