The Westland High School wrestling team made significant strides under first-year coach Brent Allerding.
The Cougars had five Division I district qualifiers this season, the most since having eight in 2008-09. They also went 2-3 in the OCC-Central Division, defeating Hilliard Davidson 40-34 on Jan. 17 and Central Crossing 45-33 on Feb. 7, for their most league victories since going 2-2 in 2008-09.
Another highlight for Westland, which went 0-5 in the OCC-Central last season, was defeating Grove City 41-31 in the first round of the Division I, Region 6 dual team tournament Feb. 2 at Hilliard Darby. The Cougars lost to the host Panthers 55-17 in the second round.
"Brent proved his abilities to lead a competitive OCC wrestling team," athletics director Mike George said. "The team had great numbers and great success this season and under his leadership the program is in the best place that it has been since I have been here. Brent has proven himself and we are lucky to have him. It will be a lot of fun watching the program continue to grow under his guidance."
Senior Andrew Sherman led the Cougars in the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Darby, going 4-2 and placing fifth at 195 pounds to be a state alternate. Sherman, who finished the season 40-9, was bidding to become Westland's first state qualifier since 2007 when Chris Brogan went 0-2 at 215.
The Cougars' other four district qualifiers are underclassmen.
"We did a lot of good things and a lot of stuff that we can build off," Allerding said. "It was good to see (Sherman) finish up strong, and with some of our guys and what it looks like for next year, I'm pretty excited."
Also at district, freshman Trent Jude went 3-3 and placed sixth at 113 to finish the season 35-13, freshman Tyler Jude went 2-2 at 106 to finish 38-13, sophomore Bryson Palmer went 1-2 at 126 to finish 33-11 and freshman Jakob Hurley went 1-2 at 138 to finish 39-7.
Hurley made first-team all-OCC-Central, Palmer was second-team all-league and Tyler Jude was third-team all-league.
"I know (Allerding is) a first-year coach, but he's been one of the best things to happen to the team in recent years and he's definitely pushing us to be the best wrestler we can be," Palmer said. "We're already working our way up and we made a statement this year. With a couple more years of work and with him, we can definitely push ourselves to get there."
Allerding, who replaced Mark Nieman as coach during the offseason, said the team's five seniors helped the coaching transition go smoothly. Nieman stepped down after one season.
"They were pretty good leaders," Allerding said of Sherman, William Azo, Anthony Johnson, Juan Martinez and Kyle Newman. "They were big for us and bought in. It was all good stuff."
Other wrestlers eligible to return include juniors Edgar Cruz (120), Darius Lightfoot (152) and Francisco Vinalay Jr. (195) and freshmen Camren Howard (113), Colby Lightfoot (120), Victor Lopez (145), Jacob Mullens (170) and Brendan Wiseman (145).
Darius Lightfoot finished 24-20.
"It's good to see the progress our kids have made," Allerding said. "These kids have a goal in mind to where they want to go and are making good steps to get there."