The Westland High School wrestling team entered the Division I district tournament with a positive mindset instilled by first-year coach Brent Allerding.
The Cougars qualified five wrestlers for district while finishing eighth (101 points) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (214.5) in a 10-team sectional Feb. 23 at Newark.
"We talk about progress all year, getting better and focusing on the progress more than winning," Allerding said. "It all leads up to this. It's the end of the season and you can let it fly. There's nothing to hold back, just leave it all on the mat. That's the mindset we're trying to teach them, not to let fear or anything get in the way and just let it fly."
The top four finishers in each weight class at sectional advanced to district March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby. At district, the top four in each weight class qualified for state Thursday, March 7, through Saturday, March 9, at Ohio State.
Chris Brogan was the last Westland wrestler to qualify for state, going 0-2 at 215 pounds in 2007. The last state placer was Jake Farrell, who finished eighth at 119 in 2005.
Allerding believed all five district qualifiers could make a bid for a state berth, led by senior Andrew Sherman, who finished third at sectional at 195 and was 36-7 entering his second district tournament.
Last season, Sherman reached a district semifinal at 182 and was one win from qualifying for state before being pinned by Liberty's Trevor Lawson in 36 seconds and then Lancaster's A.J. McRitchie in 4:30 in a consolation match. Sherman went on to place sixth and finish the season 34-16.
Sophomore Bryson Palmer also reached his second district tournament, earning the berth with a fourth-place sectional finish at 126. Palmer was 32-9 entering district, where he went 0-2 last season at 120.
Palmer credits Allerding for his development.
"I know he's a first-year coach, but he's been one of the best things that's happened to the team," Palmer said. "He's been pushing us to be the best wrestler we possibly can be. We're already working our way up. We made a statement this year and with a couple more years of work and with him here, we can definitely push ourselves to get there."
The other three district qualifiers were freshmen who Allerding expects to have successful prep careers.
Jakob Hurley finished second at sectional at 138, losing to Teays Valley's Jacob Williams 6-1 in the final. Hurley was 38-5 entering district.
Twin brothers Tyler and Trent Jude competed at 106 and 113, respectively, at district after both finished third at sectional. Tyler entered district at 36-11 and Trent was 32-10.
"Sectional was about as expected," Allerding said. "I was hoping we could get a couple other kids out (to district), but we thought we could at least get these five. It was a tough sectional."
Another postseason hopeful, junior Edgar Cruz, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in the finals of the Canal Winchester Invitational on Feb. 9.
"He would have been another guy who would have been in the mix (at 120)," Allerding said. "He worked really hard. I felt bad for him."
Boys basketball team falls to Central
The boys basketball team saw its season end with an 85-33 loss at third-seeded Pickerington Central in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23.
The 45th-seeded Cougars finished 4-19.
Eric Panning led Westland with 12 points.
"Playing a team like Pickerington Central shows the value of being willing to play hard and confidently," coach Rob Hayes said. "Most people will look at that game and rightly see a blowout, but what I want the kids to see is that when we made aggressive plays on the ball, we turned them over. ... Simple, tough basketball plays were there as they always will be, and we have to be willing to do that more consistently."
Gymnastics team closes season
The gymnastics team closed its season by finishing 22nd (101.275) in the 24-team district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.205).
Senior Ines De La Fuente finished 77th in the all-around (28.825) and sophomore Heaven Manbevers was 91st (26.25).
Westland competed the second half of the season without its top gymnast, as junior Kennedy Budd was academically ineligible. Coach Lavon Maynard is hoping Budd returns next season.
Others eligible to return are sophomores Aileen Plascencia and Kaylee Seabolt and freshman Emilie Adams.