Despite having won 23 matches during the first two months of this season, Canal Winchester High School wrestler Jared Mattox wasn't entirely impressed with his body of work.

"It's been average," he said. "I've had some matches I shouldn't have lost just because of conditioning or I cashed it in."

According to coach Harrison Rosch, that humility is exactly what makes Mattox a good team leader, in addition to his work ethic and depth of moves. Mattox, a junior, is 23-9 at 160 and 170 pounds after finishing second at the former class during the Canal Winchester Invitational on Feb. 9.

"He comes early to practice. He'll stay after. He mops the mats. He's a very humble person, especially for somebody who's had a lot of success," Rosch said. "A lot of it is his mental toughness. He's never out of a match. Even against top competition, he is able to keep it close and stay in matches. He's a grinder. He won't score a ton of points or get a ton of pins, but all of his matches seem to be close. With that and his conditioning, he can win matches in the third period that a lot of kids can't. He seems to get stronger as the match goes on."

Mattox prides himself on that conditioning and ability to grind out matches, an approach he said has come largely through experience and a change in attitude that began before his sophomore season of football. He placed third in a Division I sectional tournament last season but went 0-2 at district.

"Freshman year, I would try to, instead of going out to win, I'd go out there not to lose. If you do that, you've already lost," Mattox said. "When coach (Josh) Stratton took over in football and changed the culture, that changed my whole attitude. I completely bought in and that helped me with wrestling, too.

"I like to be in better shape than my opponents. My technique is not the best, but I can push the pace and break them like that. I'm pretty aggressive; I like to push the pace and break (an opponent's) spirit, take mental control of a match."

Teammate Cian Rose, a junior who wrestles at 126, said Mattox taught him his stance when the two wrestled together in middle school.

"He helped me with a lot of my fundamentals. We're pretty similar wrestlers when it comes to our style," Rose said. "'J.J.' and I spar occasionally, and since I'm 126 and he's 160, it really helps me wrestling against my own weight class. Those guys feel that much lighter. J.J. will help anybody when they need it. He cheers everybody on and encourages them. That's what you want in a teammate."

Rose has been out of the lineup since late December with a left shoulder injury but hopes to return for a Division I sectional Feb. 23 at Marysville.

Mattox said football and wrestling both have benefited him in the other sport. A two-year starting linebacker, the 5-foot-7 Mattox had 34 tackles last season despite missing four games because of a bulging disc in his neck and 33 tackles as a sophomore.

"I'm a better tackler because of wrestling. Football is a lot more fun, but wrestling makes me a better person," Mattox said. "It builds character and self-discipline. It helps me a lot with the outside world, how I go through life."

Canal Winchester finishes the regular season Thursday, Feb. 14, with a league match at Franklin Heights. The Indians fell to 0-4 in the OCC-Capital Division with a 45-33 home loss to Newark on Feb. 7.

Rosch -- who also is Mattox's position coach in football -- is confident that Mattox could play college football as an outside linebacker or safety at the Division III level, but Mattox said he isn't ready to think too far ahead.

"I feel like if I start thinking about colleges, I won't be as focused on now," Mattox said. "If an opportunity comes up, then I'll consider it."

Boys team prepares for title showdown

The OCC-Capital championship will be on the line when the boys basketball team finishes the regular season Friday, Feb. 15, at Newark.

Both teams are 7-2 in the league, coming off losses Feb. 8. That night, Canal Winchester lost its second game in a row, falling 61-57 at home to New Albany, while Newark lost to Groveport 46-43.

Canal Winchester beat the Wildcats 67-61 on Jan. 11.

Brady Snyder had 22 points and Cole Metzler scored 13 against New Albany as the Indians fell to 17-3 overall before playing Teays Valley on Feb. 12.

On Feb. 5, Canal Winchester lost 92-63 at Pickerington North. The Indians missed their first nine shots from the floor and got within four points in the second quarter, but never closer.

Bilal Sow had 21 points, Cole Metzler scored 16 and Brady Snyder scored 11, all in the second half, against North.

"We picked a bad night to play our worst game of the year," coach Lyndell Snyder said. "(North) is a team we came in figuring we might have to beat in a district semifinal or a final. It felt like they didn't miss a shot. We still have a chance to win our league. (Newark) will be for the championship no matter what. ... All we can do is worry about the next game."

Canal Winchester is seeded 10th of 47 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play host to 18th-seeded Dublin Jerome in the first round Feb. 23.

Swimmers head to district meet

Two boys individuals, two girls and a combined three relays will represent the boys and girls swimming teams in the Division I district meet Friday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State.

Boys swimmer Blake Fry is seeded third in both the 100-yard breaststroke (58.43 seconds) and 500 freestyle (4:43.8), and girls swimmer Grace Riddle is seeded second in the 100 backstroke (58.34).

Riddle won the 100 back and was fourth in the 100 free (54.14) in a sectional Feb. 9 at Upper Arlington, as the Indians finished eighth (59 points) behind the host and champion Golden Bears (385.5) as 16 teams scored.

Fry won the 100 breast and was runner-up in the 500 free (4:43.8) to lead the boys team to 10th place (58) behind champion UA (317) as 15 teams scored. He also was on the district-qualifying 200 medley relay that placed sixth (1:47.09) with Corey Berner, Lucas Elizondo and Korbin Martino.

Riddle, Madison Burris and Karenna Reed are on the district-qualifying 200 free relay (1:46.87, sixth) and 200 medley relay (1:57.15, eighth). Grace Terflinger also is on the 200 medley relay and Mikaela Vojacek is the fourth member of the 200 free relay.

At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 22 and 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Coleman becomes extra option for girls team

According to girls basketball interim coach Hillary Kessler, senior guard Ariana Coleman's increased scoring is a benefit of the selflessness she shows her teammates.

Coleman averaged 5.8 points during the regular season, which the Indians concluded Feb. 8 with a 53-42 win at New Albany in OCC-Capital play, although she has been particularly productive in the past month. She had three double-digit scoring games in January, including a career-high 18 points in a 59-52 overtime win over Bloom-Carroll on Jan. 23.

That came one night after she had 14 points in an 87-18 win over Westland, and she scored 11 in a 70-49 loss to league champion Newark on Jan. 11.

"Ari has been getting a lot of points just off hustle plays," Kessler said. "She's one of the least selfish players, too, and that's helped her. Ari is always making the extra pass and she's getting that extra pass too in return. We've been talking about this tournament mindset and not having just one player putting up all the points. Probably the second half of the season, we've really spread the points out more. That's what we need to go a little farther in the (Division I district) tournament."

The Indians are 13-9 overall and finished 6-4 in the OCC-Capital. They began last week with a 62-45 win over Pickerington North on Feb. 5.

Canal Winchester does not play again until Feb. 22, when it visits 11th-seeded Teays Valley or plays host to 34th-seeded Olentangy Orange in the second round of the district tournament. The Pioneers visit the Vikings for a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 16.

The Indians are seeded 18th of 45 teams.

Cornett heading to Mount Union

Senior Gibby Cornett announced Feb. 6 that he will compete in men's track and field at Mount Union.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave