Winning a league championship, as the Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling team did for the third consecutive season, is what senior heavyweight Brady Kuhn considers "an expectation."
The Patriots had to overcome adverse circumstances to wrap up their latest OCC-Buckeye Division title, but the mentality they showed during a 34-32 victory Feb. 14 at Westerville North should serve them well in the postseason.
Not only did Liberty have to compete without one of its top wrestlers in sophomore Lucas Uliano, who has been at 120 or 126 pounds but was unavailable for the match, but the dual went back and forth until a pin by Kuhn in the final bout.
Another sophomore, Adam Gintert, trailed 16-3 until he managed a pin with just 15 seconds remaining in his match at 126 against North's Nate Morse.
"My goal was to throw him to get the pin, but he shot and I was able to get that cradle and I just stuck him," Gintert said. "I was worried about the clock running out, so I didn't know if I was going to get it or not."
Liberty, which finished 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye as North placed second at 4-1, will try to bring what coach Mark Marinelli calls a "competitive" mindset into a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Newark.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.
Liberty had 10 district qualifiers a season, but five of those wrestlers are no longer with the program.
"(Gintert) was trying a lot of moves to win," Marinelli said. "He kept wrestling and got him at the end. He didn't give up. It was a huge momentum-shifter there. This was one of the best dual meets we've had in a long time.
"Our guys are really loose right now. All of our guys are competitive right now and in the practice room. It got really competitive in the room, and we're stressing that to the guys to be competitive with Carson (Kharchla), to be competitive with Connor (Brady), to learn. I really like the way we're moving right now."
Kharchla, a senior, won the state title at 170 last season while Brady, also a senior, was third at 152 as a sophomore.
Swimmers move on to state competition
The swimming and diving program will be represented by five individuals and three relays in the Division I state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Olivia Lynch will open state for the Patriots in the girls diving competition Thursday, Feb. 21. The swimming preliminaries are Friday, Feb. 22.
Jack Matthews then will compete in boys diving Saturday, Feb. 23, with swimming finals later that day.
In the district meet Feb. 14 and 15 at Ohio State, the boys finished fifth (184) behind champion Dublin Jerome (301) and the girls were 11th (81) behind champion Upper Arlington (306) as 27 teams scored in each meet.
"We had a rough district last year so it was important to prepare and come in here with a clearer mind and purpose, and the kids nailed it," coach Peter Krosnosky said. "They did a great job on the relays and individual swims and I couldn't ask for more."
Matthews scored 600.65 points while winning the diving competition Feb. 14 and is the second seed for state. He placed third at state last season.
"I started off my first two dives pretty well, kind of stumbled on the next two, but my list continually got better and better," he said. "I ended up setting a new personal-best (score) so I was happy about that, especially since I've been out the past three days since I was sick. It was nice to come back and dive as well as I did."
Earning district runner-up finishes for the boys to also automatically advance to state were Alexander Wisler in the 100-yard butterfly (51.04) and the 200 freestyle relay of Wisler, Christian Hosler, Christopher Tracewell and John Bently (1:25.62). The 200 free relay is seeded ninth and Wisler is seeded 16th.
The 200 medley relay of Bently, Isaac Iversen, Wisler and Eli Grubbs was third (1:34.6) and is seeded 11th. Bently was fourth in the 100 free (46.31) and is seeded 12th, and the 400 free relay of Wisler, Andrew Gehring, Tracewell and Bently was fourth (3:09.76) and is seeded 15th.
Lynch, a sophomore who has battled wrist injuries and didn't compete at district last season, scored 506.85 to earn the fourth and final state-qualifying berth Feb. 15 and is seeded fifth for state.
"I felt really confident, but just getting back a month ago (from injury), I was really nervous," Lynch said. "But I had a lot of fun."
Kate Saczawa is happy to be heading back to state after physical issues kept her from competing in the offseason as much as she was hoping. She's the 15th seed in the 100 backstroke after placing fourth (57.0) at district.
Last season, Saczawa was third at state in the 100 back and 11th in the 50 free and also swam on two relays.
"I've had a pretty rough season, so it's just kind of focusing on the time drops," she said. "I felt good (being at district)."
Boys basketball team to begin postseason
The fourth-seeded boys basketball team plays host to 40th-seeded Darby on Saturday, Feb. 23, in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
If the Patriots win, they will play host to 39th-seeded Licking Heights on March 1.
With an 83-62 victory over Olentangy on Feb. 15, Liberty improved to 18-4 overall and finished first in the OCC-Buckeye at 9-1.
Ben Roderick scored 19 of his 30 points in the first half as the Patriots built a 48-25 lead. Nick Nakasian finished with 15 points and Mitchell Kershner added 12.
Girls basketball team reaches second round
The 10th-seeded girls basketball team opened the Division I district tournament with a 49-36 home victory over 32nd-seeded Olentangy on Feb. 16 and will play host to 29th-seeded Delaware on Friday, Feb. 22, in the second round.
If the Patriots beat the Pacers, they will play ninth-seeded Hilliard Davidson or 21st-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site.
Liberty, which beat Olentangy 54-31 on Dec. 4 and 46-39 on Jan. 11, led the third matchup 24-19 at halftime and outscored the Braves 23-15 in the third quarter.
Teegan Pifher scored 15 of her 22 points in the third as the Patriots improved to 16-7.
Delaware is 11-11 and led by sophomore guard Alexis Amabile, who missed seven games with an injury but had 28 points in a 62-53 victory Feb. 13 over Licking Heights to close the regular season.
Hockey team opens district tournament
With an 8-0 victory over 19th-seeded Berlin on Feb. 17 in a second-round district game at OhioHealth Ice Haus, the third-seeded hockey team advanced to a quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 23, against sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller at the same site.
The winner will play second-seeded UA or seventh-seeded Olentangy in a semifinal Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Ice Haus. The district final is March 2 at the Ice Haus.
Max Turner had a hat trick against Berlin as Liberty improved to 21-9-2-3.
In the regular season, the Patriots tied Moeller at 3 on Jan. 27 and beat the Crusaders 4-3 on Feb. 3.
Liberty defeated UA 2-0 on Dec. 28 and 1-0 on Feb. 9, and beat Olentangy 3-2 on Jan. 13.
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty bowling and gymnastics teams:
Feb. 22 -- Division I girls sectional at HP Lanes. The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 23 -- Division I boys sectional at HP Lanes. The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 23 -- District meet at Worthington Kilbourne. The top three teams advance to state March 1 at Hilliard Bradley. The top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advance to state March 2 at Bradley.