The Northland wrestling team is hoping that a set of new mats will arrive in time for it to celebrate its seniors Jan. 15.
If everything goes according to plan, the Vikings also will be in position later this season to contend for their first City League championship since 1982.
Northland earned the runner-up trophy in last year's City tournament, scoring 132 points to finish behind Walnut Ridge (237.5) and ahead of East (122), Whetstone (106), South (100), Mifflin (89), West (86), Marion-Franklin (83.5), Linden-McKinley (69), Beechcroft (54), Centennial (27) and Briggs (7).
All six of the wrestlers who finished in the top four in their respective weight classes at the league tournament have returned for Northland, which opened Dec. 7 by placing third (107) in the nine-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales behind Columbus South (147) and Thomas Worthington (143) and competes Saturday, Dec. 14, in the Hamilton Township Invitational.
"We haven't had a new mat at Northland since the early- to mid-1990s," third-year coach Joe Murray said. "We did some fundraising for our own mat and hopefully it will be delivered on time so we can invite the alumni that donated. That was one of our big goals this year, to get the alumni to come back and enjoy what they offered up to us.
"The team goal is to finish in the top three in the City or hopefully higher. This year, hopefully we'll fill all 14 weight classes so we can have a full roster and compete for a City championship."
Last season, junior Edwin Duran was the City champion at 113 pounds and sophomore Corey Craddolph won the City title at 220. Both have returned at those weights.
Junior Ahmed Salah was league runner-up at 145 a year ago and could be at that weight or 138 this season, while senior Carlos Galdamez was league runner-up at 152 but is expected to be at 170 or 182 this winter.
Senior Josiah Ellis finished third in the league at heavyweight last season and should compete at the same weight, while senior Olman Najar-Ayala placed third at 160 and should be at that weight or 152 this season.
Seniors Jose Alberto (160 or 170) and Jamal Mohamud (126) and sophomore Abdi Moualem (106) are other key returnees.
"I have about eight to nine returning guys and a bunch of new guys, so we'll see how guys shape up and how long they stick with it, but so far they're sticking with it," Murray said. "We've brought in a couple football players that thought about (wresting) last year and I have 12 freshmen and some first-time sophomore wrestlers."
Beechcroft, which is in its third season under coach Mac Conkling, has about a dozen athletes competing.
The Cougars had each of their four entrants at last year's City tournament finish in the top five in their respective weights.
"We weighed in 24 at our alpha weigh-in, but we're expecting to have about 10 to 15 competing," Conkling said. "We found out what the kids were looking for and what they can handle. You've got to kind of ease them into this sport instead of going full-go at the beginning."
The Cougars' top returnee is senior Alhaji Sidibe, who was City champion at 195 last season but is likely to compete at 220 this winter.
Senior Aloysious Kamara placed fourth at 126 in the league meet a year ago but is expected to be at 132 or 138 this season.
Senior Ibrahim Camara was league runner-up at 160 and junior Demetrius Haynes placed fifth at 152 last season. One of those wrestlers is expected to be at 160 this season, with the other at 170.
Junior Devin French, a transfer from South, is only eligible during the season's first half and should be at 152. Senior DeMarjeon Harris will be at heavyweight and freshman Israel Ruiz will compete at 145.
The Cougars finished sixth (67.5) in the Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament.
"We just want to keep getting better," Conkling said. "This year, our goal is to finish in the top five (in the City tournament). That's really a concrete goal if everyone can stay healthy."
Cougars swimmers get season started
The Beechcroft swimming teams will compete against Centennial on Monday, Dec. 16, at Columbus Aquatics Center.
At last year's City meet, the girls team scored 23 points to finish behind Whetstone (125) and Centennial (81) and ahead of Eastmoor Academy (2) and the boys finished fourth (7) behind Centennial (119), Whetstone (88) and Eastmoor (46).
Senior Zora Whitfield and her sister, sophomore Nyrobi Whitfield, have returned for the girls team.
Last season, Zora Whitfield won the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 24.71 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (1:14.11) at the league meet and finished 29th in the 100 fly (1:12.56) at the Division II district meet, while Nyrobi Whitfield finished first in the 100 freestyle (59.8) at the league meet and placed 17th in the 100 free (58.81) and 26th in the 200 individual medley (2:31.88) at the district meet.
Also competing for the girls team is sophomore Lily Braaksma.
For the boys team, senior Jamie Cornejo will compete in the 100 free and 500 free, with senior Preston Ratcliff and freshman Matt Nutt also in the program.
"We've got a small team again, but this year we're allowed to swim girls on boys relays so I'm hoping to put together a good enough medley relay," 18th-year coach Dan Zedeker said.
Snyder resigns as Cougars' coach
Lee Snyder has stepped down after one season as Beechcroft football coach.
The Cougars finished 7-3 overall this fall, ending the season on a four-game winning streak. They were runners-up in the City League-North Division at 5-1 and finished 13th in Division III, Region 11, five spots shy of a playoff berth.
"The team needs a head coach in the building," Snyder said. "I stepped aside to allow that."
Beechcroft's last playoff appearance came in 2016 when it reached a Region 11 semifinal under former coach Trevor White. Following that season, White left to coach Central Crossing.
After going 5-4 in 2017 under B.J. Queen and 6-4 in 2018 under Charles Gibson, Snyder took over as coach after serving as co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Cougars in 2018.
An Akron native, Snyder served as an assistant at Harvest Prep in 2015 and '16 when the Warriors made consecutive Division VII playoff appearances.
Beechcroft lost two of its first three games this fall before opening league play with a 29-15 victory over Columbus East on Sept. 20 and beating Toledo Waite 20-12 on Sept. 28 to improve to 3-2. After losing to eventual City-North champion Centennial 28-7 on Oct. 4, the Cougars won their final four games.
Beechcroft beat Northland 27-0 on Nov. 1 in Snyder's last game.
"Great kids and unbelievably strong support from the (school) administration and staff," Snyder said. "Parental assistance was also wonderful. There really is a strong Beechcroft tradition and legacy that I feel honored to have a small role (in)."