The Whitehall-Yearling wrestling team hopes a blend of experienced athletes and first-year competitors will produce a winning formula and lead to postseason success.
"The goals shift and change every year," said coach Steve Pennington, who is in his 17th season. "First and foremost, our goal this year was to increase our numbers. Out of the 23 on my roster, 13 have never wrestled before. We're doing a lot more teaching and having to slow up how much we teach, but I'm OK with that.
"I'm going to be able to fill a full lineup, so that's huge."
The Rams qualified just two wrestlers for the Division I district tournament last season in 2019 graduate Rashaad Strickland and junior Mike Dawkins, who transferred from Hartley for his sophomore season and has since transferred to Reynoldsburg.
The Rams return three wrestlers with district experience, including junior Jace Peck, who will compete at 160 pounds. Peck qualified for district as a freshman, but missed the second half of last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
"We have a lot of young guys, a lot of kids who are first-year wrestlers (and) freshmen who are coming in," Peck said. "They're working pretty hard."
Senior Andrew Dickens, who will compete at heavyweight, advanced to district as a sophomore but missed most of last season with a concussion.
"It's a building team (with a lot of wrestlers) with no experience," he said.
Senior Steven Fancelli (106/113) qualified for district as a sophomore but opted not to compete last season.
Pennington expects sophomore Shea Jordan (106), another returnee, to be a solid contributor.
"All the returnees have a good shot to qualify for district," Pennington said. "Shea Jordan has a good shot at 106. He ran into some buzz-saws last season and just didn't have it. We thought he would make it last year."
Also back are juniors Brad Holley (195) and David Winegarner (170) and sophomores Noah Church (220) and Austin Whistle (126).
Also looking to contribute are seniors Dajuon Brewer (145), Alaysia Bowers (138) and Jaylin Jimmerson (170), junior Maurkel Anderson (220), sophomores Chidoziem Duru (160), Selena Lenigar (182), Erik Taraj (152) and Abner Vasquez (145) and freshmen Marcus Anderson (145), Kayla Ayala-Olguin (126), Kaylavin Battle (160), Damion Black (113/120), Jaquel Goins-Calloway (113/120), Nakylan Haley (138) and Nate Legg (152).
Last season, Whitehall went 2-1 in the four-team MSL-Ohio Division tournament to finish second behind Bexley (3-0). Buckeye Valley has joined the league.
"It's the dawn of a new season and I'm pretty happy about that," Pennington said. "I love the sport. I love the community. I love the kids."
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 13 -- Home vs. Wellington
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
Dec. 14 -- Pioneer Baker Bash at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 17 -- Lancaster at Tiki Lanes
Dec. 14 -- Dan Gartner Duals at home