While placing fourth at the City League tournament each of the past two seasons, the Whetstone wrestling team was building a strong core.
The Braves have about half a dozen wrestlers who are in their third seasons as key competitors, but the issue has been about adding depth.
Whetstone finished 11th (45 points) in the 12-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational on Dec. 7 at Upper Arlington behind the champion and host Bears (288.5). The only other City program in attendance was Walnut Ridge, which has won four league titles in five seasons and finished ninth (47) at UA.
"We have pretty much the same team as last year," 13th-year coach Tom Jones said. "The challenge is trying to get a supporting cast that's tough enough to hang around and contribute. I don't know if I have a strong enough supporting cast to win a league title. We had a bunch of guys come out, but then grades, toughness, all types of things (kept them from continuing). I was hoping that being the head football coach and head wrestling coach that some guys would be able to tough it out, but there's a reason (wrestling) is the toughest high school sport."
The top returnees are seniors Johney Kincaid (132 pounds) and Preston Buterbaugh (170 or 182) and juniors Sallah Abdourahman (170) and Darrick McClinton (145).
Last season in a Division I sectional at Marysville, Abdourahman placed fifth at 170 and McClinton (145), Kincaid (126) and Buterbaugh (152) all placed sixth as the Braves scored 31.5 points to finish 10th. Abdourahman was a district alternate.
Last season, McClinton finished 17-3 and won his second consecutive league championship, Abdourahman went 22-11 and was league runner-up, Kincaid finished 16-13 and was league runner-up and Buterbaugh went 14-15.
Seniors Hassan Sesay (160) and Jack Zimmerman (126) and sophomore Jordan Brofford (195 or 220) also return after competing at sectional. Last season, Sesay went 23-10 and was fourth in the league tournament and Zimmerman was 17-17 and finished fifth in the league.
Junior Jack Winters (152) is a transfer from Watterson.
Senior Ford Buterbaugh (152) and freshman Paul Buterbaugh (138) are others looking to contribute.
At the Golden Bear Invitational, McClinton was third and Abdourahman placed fifth.
"We've got probably one of our strongest schedules in a while," Jones said. "We go to UA and we've got the Pickerington North Invitational (Jan. 18), the Central Crossing (Comet Classic on Jan. 11). My thing is that if you want to compete outside the City, you've got to wrestle outside the City."
Boys swimmers look to regain City title
After winning six consecutive City championships from 2013-18, the boys swimming and diving team settled for a runner-up finish last season when it scored 88 points to finish behind Centennial (119).
Seniors Kai Hoenshell and Alex Marcum give the Braves an experienced duo to build around as they attempt to move back to the top of the league.
Freshmen Nick Timmons, Aaron Schaefer and Isaac Schaefer should be immediate contributors.
Juniors Matthew Conroy and Javier Cruz are other top returnees.
Others looking to contribute include sophomore Evan Beers and freshmen Duncan Fellrath and Joshua Richards-Jarvis.
"We've got a couple freshmen that are really good," 19th-year coach John DeRing said. "Nick Timmons is doing well. Another boy we have is Matthew Conroy, who's a long-distance swimmer and is just an all-around good kid. He does what we ask of him.
"We probably ought to get a couple relays to the district meet. Marcum ought to go to district in something and possibly the Schaefer boys and Nick Timmons."
At last year's City meet, Marcum won the 100-yard backstroke, Cruz won the 100 butterfly and Conroy finished first in the 500 freestyle.
Jake Marshall, who won the league title in the 200 free, was lost to graduation.
Ave returns to lead girls swim team
Senior Olivia Ave is the top returnee for the girls swimming and diving team after placing 27th in the 500 free (5:41.4) at the Division I district meet last season.
She advanced to district with a ninth-place finish (5:43.2) at the Upper Arlington sectional, where the Braves placed 14th.
Ave won City titles in the 200 free and 500 free to lead Whetstone to its sixth consecutive league championship.
Seniors Alyssa Proudfoot and Leah Schaefer, who won league titles in the 100 back and 200 individual medley, respectively, also have returned.
Seniors Catherine Flanagan and Emilie Johnson, junior Lydia Schaefer and sophomores Inez O'Malley, Emma Schaefer and Rebecca Schaefer are other returnees.
Others looking to contribute under second-year coach Diane Barnhart include seniors Audrey Beers and Catherine Leahy, sophomore Madeline Haring and freshmen Ella Coombs, Cristin Flanagan and Xiudan McCollum.
"It's always a fun group," DeRing said. "This is my 19th year and it's always fun with these kids. They work hard, so I have no complaints."
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Centennial
*Dec. 17 -- At Columbus International
Dec. 18 -- At Franklin Heights
Dec. 12 -- At Hamilton Township
*Dec. 13 -- At Centennial
*Dec. 16 -- South at Sequoia Pro Bowl
*Dec. 17 -- West at Game of Western Columbus
Dec. 12 -- At Westerville North