After one dual in the MSL-Ohio Division tournament, coach Chris Bragg did not believe his Bexley High School wrestling team had the look of a two-time defending champion.
The Lions defeated Columbus Academy 60-24 in the first round Feb. 16 at Whitehall, but Bragg let his wrestlers know just how bad they looked. That pep talk worked, and Bexley went on to go 3-0 in the four-team round-robin event to win its third consecutive league title.
"We had a 'come to Jesus' meeting and got them ready to go," said Bragg, whose team had not won a league title since 1998 before its recent run. "In our first round, we didn't wrestle the way we should have so I kind of ripped into them before the second round.
"Against Grandview in the second round, we were a heck of a lot more aggressive (in a 60-18 victory). Then we wrestled well in a close match against Whitehall (and won 45-36) to win (the league title)."
Bexley led 39-36 entering the heavyweight match against Whitehall.
Freshman Isaac McIntosh then shook off an early 5-0 deficit to pin Whitehall's David Woods in 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
"I was losing 5-0 when he took me down and put me on my back." said McIntosh, who finished second. "I was able to escape and I got him into a headlock when we were standing. He tried to trip me forward, but I rolled through and put him on his back and was able to get a pin."
Whitehall went 2-1 to finish second, followed by Academy (1-2) and Grandview (0-3).
Blake Brenner (113 pounds), Hunter Hilgeman (160), Noah Lyons (138), Anthony Samson (152) and Eammon Sears (145) all finished first for the Lions. Jake Brigdon (132), Jeremiah Clinton (120), Turan Rai (106) and Kevin Villatoro (220) were runners-up, and Owen Tipton (126) and Tommy Webster (170) both placed third.
"I think we started a little slow and then we got into good wrestling form," Sears said.
"In the final matches, we saw ourselves really get excited about winning the league, and it showed."
The Lions now are preparing for a Division II sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Licking Valley.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Heath.
"I think (winning the league) gives us a lot of momentum going into sectional," Hilgeman said.
"It shows that we can grind it out when we have to."
Grieshop qualifies to swim at state
The girls swimming and diving team will be represented in the Division II state meet by Ally Grieshop.
The sophomore will compete in the preliminaries Thursday, Feb. 21, with the finals taking place Friday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. She is seeded 20th in the 500-yard freestyle after finishing third (5:19.58) at district Feb. 14 at Ohio State.
Grieshop also finished fourth in the 200 free (2:00.46) at district but did not qualify for state. The Lions finished ninth (100 points) behind champion Columbus School for Girls (355) as 30 teams scored. The boys did not have any state qualifiers. They finished 13th (76) at district behind champion Academy (251) as 37 teams scored.
Roberts advances to district in bowling
Tyler Roberts of the boys bowling team will compete in the Division II district tournament Thursday, Feb. 21, at HP Lanes.
Roberts rolled a 618 three-game series to finish 11th of 190 bowlers at sectional Feb. 16 at HP Lanes. That score advanced him to district as the third of 12 individual qualifiers.
The Lions totaled 2,961 to finish 25th of 32 teams behind champion Caledonia River Valley (4,047). Marion Elgin (3,487) earned the 12th and final district berth.
Isaac Halter (455, tied for 85th), Zach Herman (415, 105th) and Brett Holcomb (365, 121st) also rolled three games for Bexley.
At district, the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state March 2 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Girls basketball team begins postseason
The girls basketball team opened Division II district tournament play Feb. 19 at ninth-seeded River Valley.
The 13th-seeded Lions went 13-9 in the regular season.
The winner plays 11th-seeded Heath in the second round Friday, Feb. 22, at the home of the better seed, and that winner moves on to a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 26, at a neutral site to be determined against second-seeded Granville, 17th-seeded Sparta Highland or 20th-seeded Centennial. The Lions lost at Granville 33-23 on Dec. 21.
Bexley closed the regular season with a 75-29 win over Franklin Heights on Feb. 13. Maddy Vincent led with 28 points.
Boys team ends regular season with two losses
The boys basketball team is 13-9 overall after losing the final two games of the regular season.
The Lions finished 2-6 in the MSL-Ohio with a 57-48 loss to Worthington Christian on Feb. 15. Anthony Welsh led with 15 points and three 3-pointers, and Nasir Tucker added 14 points.
Tucker had 24 points with four 3s and Ryan Callahan scored 20 points as the Lions were edged by Tallmadge 67-66 on Feb. 16.
Bexley is seeded ninth in the Division II district tournament and has a first-round bye.
It plays host to 11th-seeded Centennial or 12th-seeded Linden-McKinley on March 2 in the second round.