Westland sophomore wrestler Jakob Hurley believes his team has the potential to compete with the top programs in the area.
Coming off wins against Westerville Central (41-37) and Westerville South (48-31) on Dec. 11, the Cougars turned in a strong performance while finishing ninth (104.5) of 27 teams in the Olentangy Liberty Classic on Dec. 13 and 14 behind the champion and host Patriots (197).
"I love the tough schedule," Hurley said. "Last year we did pretty well, (but) we didn't have tournaments with kids of this high caliber. This year I'm glad that (coach Brent Allerding) has us in these harder tournaments because we're getting to see all this different talent -- talent that we haven't seen before -- and it's really good. It's a good experience."
Hurley was one of four placers for Westland, finishing fourth at 152 pounds. He went 3-2 on the weekend and is 10-2 for the season.
After losing by technical fall to eventual champion Daniel Segura of Dublin Scioto 26-11, Hurley later lost to Marion Pleasant's Carson Smith 10-3 in the third-place match. Segura is a three-time Division I state qualifier who finished fourth at 145 last season.
"I was OK with the result," Hurley said. "I would have liked to win my third-place match. I ended up losing; I didn't wrestle to the best of my ability. I wrestled Segura from Scioto. He beat me up pretty bad, but I'm just glad I could have matches like that early in the season against good guys. It's a good learning experience. It will push me to work harder."
Allerding believes the competition at Liberty should help his wrestlers as they prepare for the postseason.
"Jakob has state championship aspirations before he's done here," Allerding said. "He definitely puts in the work, so we definitely think he can get to that level."
Junior Bryson Palmer led the Cougars at Liberty. He split his first two matches at 132 before battling back to finish third with a 3-1 win over Delta's Gabe Meyer. He went 5-1 on the weekend and is 11-2 for the season.
Sophomore Tyler Jude reached a semifinal at 113 before being pinned by eventual champion Zack Mattin of Delta in 1 minute, 25 seconds. Mattin won the Division III state title at 106 last season.
Jude was later pinned by Westerville North's Gabe Ohle in 3:43 to finish fourth. He was 3-2 at Liberty and is 8-3 for the season.
Trent Jude, Tyler's twin brother, finished fifth at 120. He pinned Louisville (Kentucky) Trinity's George Ferree in 19 seconds in the fifth-place match to finish the tournament 4-2 and improve to 10-2 for the season.
"After day one we were fifth and felt pretty good, but day two began and reality set in during the quarters and the semis against some pretty top-notch kids and we lost some tough matches," Allerding said. "I'm not sure if I was satisfied, but I wasn't upset. It was a tough tournament. We'd like to keep improving. It was a good showing. It was good to get some placers."
The Cougars will return to action Jan. 3 and 4 when they compete in the J.C. Gorman Invitational at Mansfield Senior.
Allerding, a 2010 graduate of Loudonville, competed in the tournament in high school. His brother, Nick, is the coach at Bellville Clear Fork, another school scheduled to compete at Mansfield.
"That was a tournament that I went to in high school and it was always a tough one," Allerding said. "They've amped it up even more. My brother coaches at Clear Fork and he says it's been pretty tough the past couple of years. We're pretty excited to get in there. It's another two-day tournament. That's the kind of stuff we need."
Westland opens its OCC-Central Division schedule Jan. 9 against visiting Marysville.
"I can't wait," Hurley said. "I think we're going to have our best shot of taking these teams out in the league than we have in years. We've been working hard. Our coaches have been amazed with us, pushing us to limits that we didn't think we could reach. I guarantee no other teams are working as hard as us, so we're coming for them."
Girls basketball team wins on late basket
Taylor Bronson's 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining lifted the girls basketball team to a 36-35 win over visiting Madison Christian on Dec. 16 to end a five-game losing streak.
Hayden Kershaw led the Cougars with 11 points.
Westland was 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Upper Arlington on Dec. 20.
"Although we have faced challenging teams to begin the season, I am very happy with the growth and progress of the girls," coach Nina Napolitano said. "Every time the girls step on the court, whether it is for practice or a game, we are improving. We are excited to see the continued growth."
Boys basketball team off to slow start
The boys basketball team was 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before playing UA on Dec. 20.
Kalil Camara scored 21 points and Eric Panning added 12 in a 92-65 loss at Dublin Coffman on Dec. 13.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball and girls basketball teams:
Dec. 27 -- Home vs. Grove City in Best of the South-West Tournament
Dec. 28 -- Home vs. Central Crossing or Franklin Heights in Best of the South-West Tournament
Dec. 23 -- Home vs. Harvest Prep