A strong performance in a Division I sectional brightened last season for the Reynoldsburg wrestling team.
Now the Raiders are looking to take another step forward.
Of the eight Reynoldsburg competitors who advanced from sectional to the district tournament last winter, four have returned, including senior Noah Ratliff after he went 2-2 at 152 pounds to finish 35-9.
He is at the same weight this year for a team that plans to fill every weight class with an eye on being more competitive in the OCC-Ohio Division after going 0-5 in the league last season.
Reynoldsburg competes Thursday, Dec. 12, in the Eastside Duals at Licking Heights but doesn't open league action until Jan. 9 against Pickerington Central.
"I think we can be competitive in the OCC this season," fourth-year coach Jon Forgy said. "I'd like to see our team win a tournament title this season, as we've been close in the past. If we can do these things, I feel we can have a year to remember and we'll be feeling good come March."
Reynoldsburg, which finished third at sectional last season, has a strong core of seniors led by Ratliff as well as fellow 2019 district competitors Isaiah Boateng (145), Colin Harvey (220) and Aaron Reynolds (132).
Sophomore Gracie Straughter, who finished fourth at sectional at 113 but did not compete at district, is now at 106.
Senior Peighton Irish-Arnett has moved from 106 to 113 after finishing fifth at sectional and winning 11 matches.
Junior Dalton Hall, who won 15 matches and placed fifth at sectional, has returned at heavyweight.
Other seniors include Trey Daugherty (160), Luke Goeschl (126), Trayton Waite (195) and Romeo White (170), with junior Gaven Miller (182) also in the lineup.
Junior Michael Dawkins and freshman Caleb Smiley both are at 138, with freshman Steven Schulze another at 195.
At 120, freshmen Landon Bray, Marcus Collins and Aden Neil all could see action.
Freshman Logan Smalley (132) is another looking to contribute.
The biggest loss from last season was Kyle Copas, a three-time district qualifier who went 1-2 at district to close his prep career at 107-59. Jonathan Axel Balmeo (182) and Gary McCreary (138) both competed at district and were lost to graduation, while senior Zach Frye (195) is not back with the team after competing at district.
On Dec. 7 in the 12-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at Upper Arlington, the Raiders finished fourth (126) behind champion UA (289) as Hall won the title at heavyweight.
"My hopes for the season would be to keep improving in the (practice) room and to make sure that we're doing the little things the right way," Forgy said. "My outlook is high."
Girls swimmers build around Lichtner
The girls swimming and diving team returns one of the area's stronger sprinters in junior Kasey Lichtner.
In addition, the Raiders have a strong freshman class.
"My goal for the girls team this season is to develop a deep lineup of girls in order to be able to compile relays with the chance of qualifying for districts," second-year coach Josh Dorsett said.
Lichtner finished 23rd in the 50-yard freestyle (25.18 seconds) and 24th in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.95) at district last season.
On Nov. 30 in the Scottie Sprints at Muskingum Recreation Center, Reynoldsburg was third (62) of 11 teams behind Warsaw River View (93) and host Dresden Tri-Valley (92) as Lichtner won the 50 free (26.6) and 100 butterfly (1:04.58), and freshman Sarah LeMay won the 100 free (1:05.74) and was ninth in the 100 individual medley (1:16.76).
Freshman Maddi Daugherty was eighth in the 50 free (31.8) and freshman Cameran Ball was third in the 100 fly (1:25.09).
"(Lichtner) is looking to continue her work with the 50 freestyle," Dorsett said. "She's excited to welcome Sarah LeMay and Cameran Ball. These three ladies look to team up for some relays this season and see if they can make it to districts."
Senior Bella Hutson-Comeaux and sophomores Olivia Dulay, Brynn Dwenger, Anna Haines and Isabella Martin join Lichtner as key swimmers.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Jaila Dorsey and Kayli Soublet and sophomores Mary Ennis, Jasmine Fletcher, Haeli Robinett and Alexis Waickman.
Depth a strength for boys swimmers
The boys swimming team also has a strong junior to build around in Nate Gaver, who is expected to return later this month after missing time with the Raiders because he was competing in the Speedo Winter Junior Nationals in Atlanta.
Last season, Gaver was fifth in the Division I district meet in the 50 free (21.29) and 14th (21.38) at state. The other state competitor last year was Harvey Culbert, a 2019 graduate who is now competing for West Virginia after finishing 11th in the 100 breast (57.88).
On Nov. 30 in the nine-team Scottie Sprints, the Raiders were third (68) behind River View (150) and Tri-Valley (73) as sophomore Max Hutson-Comeaux was runner-up in both the 50 fly (27.33) and 100 free (54.04).
Hutson-Comeaux also is expected to focus on the 500 free.
"I expect Nate Gaver to be one of my top swimmers this season," Dorsett said. "We're hopefully looking forward to a return to the state meet for (Gaver) in both (the 50 free and 100 free). Max Hutson-Comeaux is also looking to be one of our top swimmers this year."
Junior Dhishan Kashyap was fourth in the 50 breast (34.15) in the Scottie Sprints. Senior Luke Wyandt and juniors Jonathan Begeny, Austin Harter and Malachi Nichols also are among the team's top swimmers.
The Raiders have one diver in freshman Freddie Culbert, who is Harvey's brother.
Juniors Gav Carr, Mekhi Dejarnette and Tyler Dowling, sophomores Jayden Cohen, Zion Jackson-Wilborn and Jaylen Settles and freshman Michael Cole also are looking to contribute.
Another key swimmer lost to graduation was Justin Barnhart, who competed on the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay at district last year.
"It's crazy how deep this boys team is looking to be this winter," Dorsett said. "The fact that we have multiple relays that look strong and will compete against other teams is amazing. My hope for this season is to have three relays qualify for district. My boys are working super hard to achieve this and will do anything in their power to help their team."
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Grove City
Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Eastmoor Academy
*Dec. 13 -- At Grove City
Dec. 17 -- At Canal Winchester
*Dec. 16 -- Hilliard Darby at Holiday Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 14 -- Ned Reed Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 12 -- Eastside Duals at Licking Heights