The Olentangy Liberty wrestling team has had at least one placer in the Division I state tournament in each of the past nine seasons.

The Patriots also have had a state champion in each of the past five seasons, and they figure to have one of the area's deepest lineups again this winter. However, their focus is less on the bottom line and more conceptual.

"We'd like to average six to eight points per match across the whole team every match," 13th-year coach Mark Marinelli said. "(We want to) wrestle each match to accomplish this, win or lose, and be a positive athlete for our school."

The top returnees for the Patriots -- who were district runners-up last year and then scored an area-best 55 points to place seventh at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (194.5) -- are junior Lucas Uliano (145 pounds) and seniors Jayce Fitzpatrick (160) and Kaden Tong (220).

In his first state appearance in Ohio after finishing third in the Iowa state tournament as a freshman, Uliano placed seventh at 126 to finish 30-9.

Fitzpatrick went 0-2 at state at 145 to finish 30-11, and Tong was a state alternate who went 24-6. Fitzpatrick is now at 160 after the Patriots lost Connor Brady to graduation after he was last year's state runner-up.

Seniors Austin Bensman (145, 27-12 last season), Ben Cox (182, 26-9) and Ethan Stamp (152, 18-14) and junior Stephen Dirksmeier (170, 27-12) were district qualifiers last year.

Dirksmeier has moved from 182 to take over at 170 after the Patriots lost two-time state champion Carson Kharchla to graduation.

Brady now competes for Virginia Tech and Kharchla is at Ohio State.

Senior Nick Rutsky (106) and juniors Mark Ceddia (138), Hunter Ford (120) and Josh Sutton (113) competed in last year's sectional.

Although it is yet to be determined which wrestler will compete at 126, senior Mason Hughett, junior Adan Gintert, sophomore Nico Leary and freshman Avi Swain are at 132 and senior Noah Feeney is another at 120.

Senior Jadon Brownlee has taken over at heavyweight for 2019 graduate Brady Kuhn, a district qualifier who went 26-10 last season.

Freshman Dylan Russo is expected to be at 195 after Cox was at that weight last season.

Seniors Chase Kuhl (170) and Austin Tormasi (182), juniors Andrew Brown (170), Sam Debord (215), Zach Dunbar (170), Jack Freitag (152), Adan Gintert (132), Luke Reidel (195), Josh Slingsby (195), David Smith (182) and Matthew Wrather (195), sophomore Charlie Cole (215) and freshman Luke Fleet (215) are others looking to contribute.

Liberty opened with a 43-33 win over Vandalia Butler on Dec. 6 and beat Watkins Memorial 51-15 on Dec. 7.

"Our seniors are going to lead, and we expect them to contribute the whole year," Marinelli said.

Boys swim squad returns strong nucleus

The boys swimming and diving team has returned five swimmers and one diver who competed in the Division I state meet last winter.

Junior diver Jack Matthews returns after scoring 534 points to finish as runner-up behind Shaker Heights' Lyle Yost (571.2), who won his second consecutive title but has since graduated.

Returning swimmers who were at state last year are seniors John Bently, Andrew Gehring, Eli Grubbs and Isaac Iversen and junior Christian Hosler.

Liberty opened Dec. 7 by losing to Upper Arlington 125-61.

"(We have a) strong senior class," third-year coach Peter Krosnosky said. "(We hope to) complete this version of the OCC as conference champs, (have a) strong presence at districts and continued success at state."

At state, Bently and Hosler joined 2019 graduates Alexander Wisler and Christopher Tracewell on the 200-yard freestyle relay that was 10th (1 minute, 25.4 seconds). Bently, Grubbs and Iversen joined Wisler on the 200 medley relay that placed 13th (1:36.41) and Bently, Gehring, Tracewell and Wisler swam on the 17th-place 400 free relay (3:11.23).

In addition, Bently was 14th in the 100 free (46.67) and Wisler placed 17th in the 100 butterfly (51.4).

Other swimmers who have returned after competing at district are seniors Dylan Ingram (200 free, 500 free), Max Miller (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke), Blake Overly (100 backstroke), Nick Sells (100 fly) and Tyler Stoltman (100 back) and sophomore Gavin Weis (200 free).

In addition to Matthews, sophomore Anthony Scullii was sixth at district in diving (400.75), senior Michael Boothman placed seventh (377) and senior Cameron Friedauer was 13th (315.4).

State competitors return for girls team

Both of the girls swimming team's state competitors from last season have returned.

Senior Kate Saczawa is a Purdue commit who has competed at state in each of her first three prep seasons. Last season, she was 15th in the 100 back (57.47).

The other returning state competitor is junior Olivia Lynch, who was seventh in diving (433.2).

Also competing at district last season were sophomores Meggie Gehring (100 fly), Kirin Loughrey (100 free) and Amelia Wells (100 free) as well as Saczawa in the 50 free and sophomore Kaitlyn Mathews in diving.

"(We have) strong sophomore and freshman (classes)," Krosnosky said.

Liberty opened with a 134-51 loss to UA on Dec. 7.

Other key competitors include senior Lydia Colvin, juniors Sarah Beavers, Holly Gabriel, Brooke Kleinschmidt and Sarah Worster, sophomores Maria Bell, Grace Crandall, Caroline Heym and Romy Wilson, freshmen Allie Baker, Grace Gabriel, Morgan Hofmeister, Morgan Lisch, Sydney Pechinak, Christina Racke and Diana Vins and freshman diver Bella Skoog.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 12 -- Home vs. Westerville South

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 13 -- At South

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 14 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Darby

HOCKEY

*Dec. 14 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center

*Dec. 15 -- Upper Arlington at OhioHealth Ice Haus

WRESTLING

Dec. 13-14 -- Liberty Classic

*League contest