Coach Josh Heffernan knew his Olentangy Berlin High School wrestling team would be undermanned this season being a first-year program with no seniors.
To fill that void, Heffernan roamed the hallways and stopped by the offices of a few coaches looking for recruits. The result was a wrestling room filled with multisport athletes, but many completely new to the sport.
"The main thing is that kids playing multiple sports affects is our overall culture. It's part of what is making the Berlin athletic culture so great," said Heffernan, who coached Delaware the past 12 seasons. "We talk a lot about being involved, celebrating all of the Bears' successes and supporting each other. That's what having a strong multisport culture does, and it benefits the kids.
"We have a school filled with head coaches who believe in and celebrate playing multiple sports. No one is being selfish by telling a kid to specialize in one sport and only looking out for his or her own program. Everyone realizes they're part of something bigger than just themselves."
The Bears have several athletes from the baseball, football and soccer programs. Junior Luke Eisenhower (126 pounds), sophomore Blake Borgquist (160) and freshmen Matt Barreca (113) and Mason Zamilski (120) played soccer last fall, while freshman Tyler Voinovich (106) also plays baseball.
"Tyler Voinovich had never wrestled before and we lifted with the baseball team," said Heffernan, whose team is 1-4 in OCC-Cardinal Division duals after losing to Dublin Scioto 42-36 on Jan. 24. "I went over and asked him if he would give it a try, and now have a 106-pounder, and that (weight) class would have been open without him.
"I sat down with Mason Zamilski and he said he wanted to play indoor soccer over the winter. We worked out a schedule to where he would be able to do both and that has helped both of us."
A first-time wrestler, Eisenhower has seen the benefits of competing in a winter sport.
"Coach said that he thought I would do well and that with my work ethic that I could make it happen," he said. "It's my first time wrestling and it's not easy. I came out because I wanted something to do in the offseason. A lot of my (soccer) teammates decided they would take the season off, but I wanted to push my body even harder."
Juniors Corey Hill (182) and Israel Foston (152), sophomores Gagan Abadala (160), Antonio Alonso (heavyweight), Andrew Cline (heavyweight) and Justin Rader (132) and freshmen Matt Kirsop (195) and Ian Stokell (152/160) all play football.
"(Wrestling) keeps my mind active," said Foston, who plays a linebacker/defensive back hybrid position for the football team and also runs sprints in track and field. "I don't like to be in a resting place. I like to be active."
Alonso, who is a two-way lineman in football, said the sports complement each other well.
"When I started wrestling in middle school, I used it as a way to stay in shape for football, but then I started to get into it," he said. "It taught me sacrificing things like eating better. It also helped me with my footwork (as a lineman) and I'm more explosive off the line."
Hill likes both sports, but considers himself more of a wrestler than a wingback/linebacker. He said just staying competitive is the biggest reward.
"Wrestling helps you tremendously with your footwork, it keeps you in shape and it helps with the mental game," Hill said. "Mentally, you know that if you have been competing all year, you will be used to it and you'll be ready for tough competition. If you are only a single-sport athlete, you don't get that. Sure, you lift and run (in the offseason), but you need that competition as well."
Butcher, Robinson lead swimmers in OCC meet
Grace Butcher and Brogan Robinson both won two events to lead the girls and boys swimming and diving teams, respectively, in the OCC-Cardinal meet Jan. 26 at Thomas Worthington.
Butcher won the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.9 seconds) and 100 butterfly (59.75) as the girls team finished fourth (181.5 points) behind champion Dublin Jerome (282.5). The junior also was on the third-place 200 medley relay (1:55.75) with Callista Rousher, Lauren Delligatti and Staci Nation.
Delligatti placed third in the 500 freestyle (5:39.15) and Rousher was third in the 100 backstroke (1:04.96).
Robinson won both the 200 individual medley (2:02.08) and 500 free (4:54.44) as the boys team finished fifth (145.5) behind champion Jerome (398).
The freshman also joined Garrett Graybill, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull on the runner-up 200 free relay (1:34.18) and third-place 200 medley relay (1:45.34).
Boys basketball team earns third victory
The boys basketball team improved to 3-14 overall with a 73-65 win over visiting Horizon Science on Jan. 26.
It was the second-highest point total for the Bears, who defeated Columbus International 77-39 on Jan. 14.
Austin Corley had 19 points against Horizon Science and Nick Camacho scored 17.
On Jan. 25, the Bears dropped to 0-10 in the OCC-Cardinal with a 52-26 loss to unbeaten Hilliard Bradley, which is 15-0 and was ranked second in last week's Division I state poll. Corley had 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington. The Bears lost to the Cardinals 62-30 on Jan. 4.
*Feb. 5 -- At Hilliard Darby. The Bears lost to the Panthers 47-45 (OT) on Dec. 21.
*Feb. 1 -- At Thomas. The Bears lost to the Cardinals 42-36 on Jan. 4.
Feb. 2 -- At Westerville North
*Feb. 5 -- Home vs. Darby. The Bears lost to the Panthers 55-46 on Dec. 21.
*Feb. 6 -- Hilliard Bradley at Delaware Lanes
Feb. 4 -- At Hilliard Davidson with *Bradley, *Darby, *Delaware and Liberty
*Feb. 1 -- Springboro at Chiller North
*Feb. 2 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton. The Bears lost to the Vikings 4-3 on Dec. 22.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 1 -- Westerville South and Worthington Christian at Westerville Recreation Center
Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Feb. 2 -- Division II, Region 9 team dual tournament at Lexington. The quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds will be held, with the regional champion advancing to the state team tournament Feb. 10 at Ohio State's St. John Arena.