Big Walnut High School wrestling coach Aaron Renner has been molding a young group this season, and now it's time to measure that progress in the postseason.
The Golden Eagles will compete in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Watkins Memorial. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.
"Hopefully, we're getting to peak at the right time," Renner said. "It's a tough sectional. Many of these guys are going to have to wrestle to their potential to make it to the district tournament.
"It's going to be a grind, and some of those younger kids are going to have to step up and beat some kids that they shouldn't. But that's why we wrestle those matches."
Big Walnut closed the regular season Feb. 14 with an OCC-Capital Division dual against New Albany, a team it defeated 35-34 in the Division I Region 5 team dual tournament Feb. 2 at Marysville. The Golden Eagles were 2-2 in the league before facing the Eagles.
Big Walnut had a strong showing in the Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational on Feb. 9 at Jonathan Alder with seven wrestlers earning top four finishes.
Josh Halbakken finished first at 182 pounds and Ryan Coletta was runner-up at 152. Levi Piceno (126) and Max Lenz (220) both placed third, while Drew Armstrong (138), Christian Jodrey (120) and Gavin Miller (160) all finished fourth.
Halbakken (38-5), Coletta (33-10) and Lenz (30-7) had the Golden Eagles' top records entering Feb. 14.
Halbakken, Lenz and Jodrey all were district qualifiers last season and Coletta was a district alternate.
"A lot of those 'go-to' matches (at sectional) are the best in wrestling, and hopefully, we've prepared the kids," Renner said. "I know that they are conditioned well enough. I just hope that they are prepared for the dogfight that they're going to be in."
Boys basketball squad preps for postseason
The boys basketball team has plenty of time to prepare for its Division I district tournament opener.
The Golden Eagles are seeded 26th of 47 teams and have a first-round bye. They will face 15th-seeded Gahanna or 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto in the second round March 1.
"We were hoping to get a few seeds higher, but the further you go down, the less options you have," coach Brett Bartlett said. "We're going to have some extra practice time, and we'll be able to take a couple days off."
Big Walnut was 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing host to Groveport on Feb. 15. It concluded the regular season Feb. 16 at Mount Vernon.
The Golden Eagles defeated host Franklin Heights 54-39 in league play Feb. 8 behind 15 points from Jagger Barnett and 11 from Carson Becker.
Girls basketball team ready for postseason
The third-seeded girls basketball team opens the Division II tournament at home against 23rd-seeded Horizon Science Academy on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The winner plays 24th-seeded Columbus International in the second round Friday, Feb. 22, at the home of the higher seed. That winner faces sixth-seeded Beechcroft, 12th-seeded Olentangy Berlin or 14th-seeded Bloom-Carroll in a district semifinal Feb. 26.
Big Walnut closed the regular season Feb. 9 with a 58-52 loss at Massillon Perry to drop to 16-5 overall.
Erin Boehm had 19 points and Avery Schone scored 13.
The Golden Eagles finished second in the OCC-Capital at 8-2, behind Newark (10-0). They closed league play Feb. 8 with an 82-15 win over visiting Franklin Heights, outscoring the Falcons 25-0 in the first quarter and 41-2 in the first half.
Twelve players scored for Big Walnut, led by Schone with 13 points and Payton Carter with 10.
Charles leads swim teams at sectional
Freshman Gabe Charles led the boys swimming team in a Division I sectional meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
Charles placed third in the 500-yard freestyle (5 minutes, 5.87 seconds) and sixth in the 100 butterfly (56.24) and earned at-large berths in both events to the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State.
Charles also qualified for district as a member of the 400 free relay with freshman Nathan Wion and sophomores Charlie Jaeger and Braden Buckler. The relay finished ninth (3:48.64) at sectional.
Scheduled to compete in diving at district Feb. 14 were seniors Trevor Ambrose and Nate Dimitroff and freshmen Micah Tillar and Jameson Welker.
The girls team did not have any swimmers qualify for district, but junior Macy Roberto, sophomores Mackenna Ames and Eliana Smith and freshman Eva Lane were expected to compete in diving Feb. 15.
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event, the top four boys divers and the top five girls divers automatically qualified for the state meet that runs Thursday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large berths were awarded in each swimming event based on times statewide.
At sectional, the boys team finished 11th (37) of 12 teams, behind champion New Albany (358), and the girls were 13th (8) of 14 teams, behind champion New Albany (363).
Gymnasts getting ready for district
The gymnastics team is getting ready for the district meet Saturday, Feb. 23, at Worthington Kilbourne.
The top three teams advance to the team state meet March 1 at Hilliard Bradley and the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advance to the individual state meet March 2 at Bradley.
Big Walnut scored a 110.8 in the OCC-Buckeye meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington to finish fifth, behind Olentangy (136.3), Olentangy Orange (134.25), Olentangy Liberty (122.75) and Westerville Central (111.45).
The Golden Eagles went 0-4 in OCC-Buckeye regular-season duals and finished fifth in the overall league standings with two points, behind Olentangy (18, 4-0), Orange (14, 3-1), Liberty (10, 2-2) and Central (6, 1-3).
Bowlers to compete in sectional tourney
The bowling teams will begin the postseason with the Division I sectional this week at HP Lanes.
The girls will be among 38 teams competing Friday, Feb. 22, and the boys will be among 43 teams competing the next day. At sectional, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the district tournament March 2 at HP Lanes.