For the second consecutive season, the Olentangy Berlin boys and girls swimming and diving teams got an early confidence boost in southeast Ohio.
Both squads won the 17-team Athens Invitational on Dec. 7 at Ohio University. The Bears also swept the team championships last season.
The girls team won five events to edge runner-up Pickerington North 213-206, and the boys team won four events but used its depth to outdistance second-place North 208-183.
Second-year coach Glenn First said it was a good start as his program gears up for the postseason move from Division II to Division I.
"We're moving to Division I, but the kids have to approach this season like they did last season," First said. "We were a first-year program last season and everything was new. It's a different challenge this year. We have a good chance of doing well if we keep working, especially the girls."
Senior Grace Butcher is back after becoming the program's first swimmer to earn a state medal, placing sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 3.8 seconds) last year in Division II. The Houston signee also was 13th in the 100 butterfly (57.96) and joined sophomore Callista Rousher, senior Lauren Delligatti and sophomore Staci Nation on the 16th-place 200 medley relay (1:51.75).
"I don't think it will be too different (in Division I)," Delligatti said. "We have a lot of talented freshmen who came up this year that can help us out. It might be a little intimidating at first, but we face (Division I) teams (during the regular season)."
Junior Olivia Young is back after being a state alternate, and sophomore Dan Nguyen also returns. Audrey Butcher, Ava First and Grace Zercher are freshmen who could make an impact. Ava First is the coach's daughter.
In Athens, Nation won the 200 individual medley (2:15.83) and 100 freestyle (56.88). She also was a member of the first-place 200 medley relay (1:54.75) with Rousher, Grace Butcher and Audrey Butcher.
Rousher won the 100 backstroke (1:03.55) and Grace Butcher was first in the 100 breast (1:07.13).
"Coach has been having us work to get rid of bad habits," Delligatti said. "It's the small things like don't breathe in and out of your (wall turns) and making sure you get a good kick. You need to practice it now to get rid of (those habits)."
Sophomore Brogan Robinson returns for the boys after placing ninth in the 500 free (4:45.13) and 14th in the 200 IM (1:59.97) at state last season. Seniors Zach Lambert, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull joined Robinson on the 20th-place 200 free relay (1:31.87) and 23rd-place 200 medley relay (1:44.39).
Nebraska did not return to the program. The boys also return senior Garrett Graybill, who missed state because of an illness.
"We have a lot more of a foundation of what to expect from everyone on the team," Paull said of the second season. "Our role (as seniors) has changed a lot. We have freshmen looking up to us and we need set a good example for our school and our team."
Robinson won the 500 free (4:49.43) in Athens and was on the first-place 200 free relay (1:35.25) with Lambert, Graybill and Paull. Graybill was first in the 100 fly (56.76) and Lambert won the 200 free (1:56.73).
"We have some depth on the guys side this year," First said. "We have some pretty strong freshmen that have a good swimming background."
Freshmen who expect to contribute include Jack Delligatti, Daniel Petrowsky, Mark Petrow-sky and Nathan Reynolds.
Wrestlers eager for second season
The wrestling team expects to be driven by the leadership of its returnees and the energy provided by newcomers.
Senior Corey Hill will compete at 170 pounds after going 0-2 at 160 in the Division II district tournament last year to finish 31-10. Sophomore Ian Stokell went 1-2 at 145 but did not return.
Senior Israel Foston (160), junior Justin Rader (138) and sophomores Matt Barreca (132), Caden Hooks (152), Matt Kirsop (220), Hugh Peterson (145) and Tyler Voinovich (113) also are returning starters.
"Corey Hill and Israel Foston were two of our more successful wrestlers from last year; they enter their senior year after a full offseason of wrestling training," second-year coach Josh Heffernan said. "We expect a lot from those two guys.
"Hugh Peterson, Caden Hooks and Matt Kirsop, who were our offseason workhorses since last spring, they have really put in a lot of time in the weight room and on the mats. Even though they are only sophomores, they will wrestle like upperclassmen for us."
Junior Evariste Misseou (182) transferred from Hilliard Davidson, and sophomore Kody Goffin (126) transferred from DeSales. Evan Butcher (106) and J.T. Tompkins (195) are freshmen who should contribute.
"Evan Butcher and J.T. Tompkins are elite freshmen with ample middle-school success," Heffernan said. "Kody Goffin was a district qualifier last year for DeSales, and Evariste Misseou is proving to be an unexpected and exciting addition that will surprise some people."
First-year seniors Daniel Helmers (138), Adam Wallace (152) and Cameron Voinovich (170) add depth. Junior Maia Crumb (152), a standout softball player, also came out for the team.
Junior Antonio Alonso (heavyweight) did not return because of a shoulder injury from football. Sophomore Austin Burchinal and freshman Max McGee are vying for that spot.
On Dec. 7, the Bears finished fourth (160) of 18 teams in the Bad Apple Brawl behind host and champion Mount Vernon (305). Goffin (132) and Rader (138) finished second and Hill (170) placed third. Helmers (145), Kirsop (220) and Misseou (182) were fifth, and Butcher (113) and Hooks (160) placed sixth.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*Dec. 13 -- At Jerome
*Dec. 13 -- Thomas Worthington at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 16 -- Orange at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 17 -- Hilliard Darby at Delaware Lanes
Dec. 14 -- Big Walnut and DeSales at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
*Dec. 13 -- Olentangy at Chiller North
*Dec. 14 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller North
*Dec. 15 -- Orange at Chiller North
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 13-14 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 13-14 -- Liberty Classic