A strong senior class is expected to lead the Olentangy Orange wrestling team.

Eight seniors return for the Pioneers, who are seeking to be represented at the Division I state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

"We have more seniors this year and we have more leaders," said senior Ian Krider, who competes at 145 pounds. "That will set a good example for the younger wrestlers.

"Everything's going really well. Practices have been very good and I feel like we're really bonding as a team. We have great chemistry and I think that will show out on the mat. I think everyone is pushing each other on the mat and that will help us in our meets."

The Pioneers lost their lone state qualifier from a year ago in sophomore Mitchell Broskie, who went 0-2 at 160 but transferred to Dublin Coffman. They also lost Rocco Torio, who qualified for state at 126 as a sophomore but did not return for his senior season.

In addition, senior Alex Lopez, who was a district qualifier at 195 a year ago, is expected to miss the season because of a knee injury sustained playing football.

Senior Tristan Bluntschly (170/182), who placed fifth at district last season at 170 and was a state alternate, and junior Zach Miller, who was a district qualifier at 138 a year ago and is competing in the same weight class this season, are among the key returnees.

"This group of seniors has gone through the program and can show the younger kids what we expect," fifth-year coach Scott Tressler said. "They can show them what to do in practice and how to prepare for duals and tournaments. As coaches, we can tell the kids what to do, but it means more coming from the upperclassmen."

Seniors Jack Almond (160/170), Cole Benjamin (120/126) and Nicholas Schoenleb (160), junior Dylan Dempsey (182/195) and sophomores Keegan Knapp (132) and Ben Nickoloff (120) are other returning starters from last year.

Seniors Cardan Mutai (220) and Josh Young (heavyweight), junior Geoff Kaminski (220), sophomores Isaac Campbell (195), Will Ramey (126) and Connor Svantner (152) and freshmen Luke Behre (113) and Idell Ferguson (106) also are vying for spots in the lineup.

The Pioneers opened Dec. 7 by finishing third (151 points) in the 12-team Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational behind host Upper Arlington (288.5) and Vandalia Butler (255).

Bluntschly won at 195 and Krider and Mutai both placed second. Knapp, Miller and Svantner each placed third and Behre, Kaminski and Young all finished fourth.

"It's pretty neat because you have the girls team there and breaking in to set the stage for themselves," Tressler said. "The guys expect to do well, especially with the big senior class. We want to get more guys to state and get more guys up on the podium."

The girls team opened Dec. 7 at home with an event that also included participants from Berlin, Briggs, Caledonia River Valley, Grove City, Hamilton Township, Hilliard Bradley, Lyndhurst Brush, Mentor and Whitehall. Team scores were not kept.

Seniors Anna Grabau (143) and Christy Wingert (126), junior Taryn Martin (143/150) and sophomore Ashley Graham (189) each won two matches.

Swimmers seeking continued progress

Fifth-year coach J.R. Fourqurean expects the swimming and diving program to make great strides this season.

The Pioneers had several swimmers narrowly miss qualifying for the Division I state meet last season and Fourqurean expects them to break through that barrier this winter.

"We're training better than we have in a while," he said. "We expect to have a strong presence in the (OCC-Buckeye Division) and the boys and girls relays were really close to making state (last season). That's the push and we want to make it there this year."

The boys team was represented at state last season by 2019 graduate Luke Cheetham, a four-time state qualifier who placed eighth in diving a year ago. Cheetham, who also placed eighth as a junior after finishing ninth as a sophomore and 12th as a freshman, now competes for the University of Cincinnati.

His sister, Lauren Cheetham, also graduated last spring and now competes at Michigan. She did not participate in the postseason a year ago after undergoing rotator cuff surgery.

Among the key returnees for the girls team are juniors Brooke Farren (100-yard butterfly, 100 backstroke) and Emma Logan (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke) and sophomores Kayla Fisher (50 freestyle, 100 free, 100 back) and Alex Knodel (200 free, 500 free), who combined to place eighth at district last season in the 400 free relay in a program-record 3 minutes, 42.29 seconds.

Junior Joanna Ross (100 fly, 200 free) and freshman Ava Row (100 free, 200 free) also should be key contributors along with senior Josie Vance, who is expected to lead a diving corps that includes juniors Jenna Durst, Paige Kadar and Gabriella McAninch.

"We are a lot smaller (in roster size) than in the past," Fourqurean said. "We have to make sure everyone pitches in to make up for a lack of depth."

Senior Connor Huckeby (50 free, 100 free), juniors Tavo De La Rosa (200 free, 500 free), Samuel Evers (200 IM, 100 back), Tannor Lambert (100 fly), Ben Reusser (200 free, 500 free) and Graham Weidenhamer (100 free, 500 free), sophomores Noah Crowe (100 free, 200 free) and Jack Helmer (50 free, 100 free) and freshman Tuckor Lambert (freestyle, 100 back) are expected to lead the boys team, which does not have any divers.

"We have every event covered (for the boys)," Fourqurean said. "We're able to score points in the events (in which) our strong nucleus competes."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

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

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 13 -- At Westerville Central

Dec. 16 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 13 -- At Westerville Central

Dec. 16 -- At Darby

BOWLING

*Dec. 13 -- Delaware at Colony Lanes

*Dec. 16 -- Berlin at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

HOCKEY

*Dec. 13 -- Watterson at Chiller North

*Dec. 15 -- Berlin at Chiller North

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 13-14 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State

WRESTLING

Dec. 13-14 -- Liberty Classic

*League contest