At 275 pounds, Vic Searls wasn't where he needed to be on the basketball court.
The 6-foot-8 post player for St. Charles knew he had to make a change in order to make the most of his talent. And so Searls went on a diet, losing 40 pounds, and this season he has emerged as the Cardinals' leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
"Andreas James of Nova Village (AAU basketball) saw me play in a fall league (in 2018) and said I could play with them after my junior year, but I would have a better season if I lost some weight," said Searls, a senior who committed in December to play for Ashland University. "I think it made me more athletic. Before I lost the weight, I couldn't dunk and now I'm able to do that. I'm also a better shot-blocker and I can play a lot longer without going to the bench.
"I think I'm faster up and down the court. Last year, I would lumber up and down the court, but this year I try to be the first one down court."
Searls took the diet seriously, working with nutritionist Kendra McNamara of Pickerington-based Kendra2Fit to drop the pounds and make a difference in his game.
"One of the main changes was I made sure I woke up every morning and ate breakfast," he said. "That helps space out your eating and keeps you from getting tired during the day.
"I had eggs for breakfast and like a turkey and cheese sandwich at lunch. For dinner, (McNamara) gave my mom recipes to cook that were good for me. I would check in with Kendra at the end of the day and she helped make sure I was staying with things."
Searls is averaging team highs in points (12.4 per game) and rebounds (5.8 per game) and has a team-best six blocked shots for the Cardinals, who are 5-5 overall and 2-1 in the CCL. He also is shooting 54-for-74 from the field (73.0 percent) and 16-for-19 from the free-throw line (84.2 percent).
"I would say that Vic is nimble, which has come from going from 275 to 235 (pounds)," coach Jacob Daniel said. "He's a solid 6-8, he can use both hands and he's an 80-plus percent free-throw shooter.
"He was a lug before that. If he was leaning one way while posting up, he couldn't stop himself from falling over. You could do the ole move on him and it would be like pulling a chair out from behind him. Now you can't do that because he gets a wide base out there and he's stronger."
The Cardinals have more post options this season than they did a year ago with the addition of a pair of 6-5 players in sophomore Josh Whiteside (6.9 points, 5.3 rebounds) and freshman Chase Walker (10.2 points, 5.0 rebounds). However, Whiteside, a transfer from Gahanna, will have to sit out the remainder of the season after the Cardinals' CCL game Friday, Jan. 10, at Ready because of OHSAA transfer rules.
"They are both better than I was when I was their ages, and they have a lot of potential," Searls said of Whiteside and Walker.
"I want to teach them to work hard every day. My freshman year, I definitely wasn't the best post player in my class."
Daniel said Searls is a good role model for the young post players because of his work ethic.
"Vic works hard on drills in practice and does things the right way," Daniel said. "He needs to be much more vocal, but that's not his personality.
"Something else that has helped Vic is our depth at post. We wanted to get away from the double-post and put more shooters on the floor. We're able to sub them in and go two minutes at a time and keep everyone fresh. Vic has been getting big rebounds at the end of games and maybe that's from him having more energy."
Hockey team continues to roll
The hockey team won two of its first three games to start the new year to improve to 15-5-2 overall and 7-2 in the CHC-Red Division.
The Cardinals lost to Olentangy Liberty 6-0 on Jan. 2 before defeating Dublin Jerome 4-3 in overtime Jan. 3.
Against Jerome, Myles McKinney scored off assists by Sam Mickey and Diego Pitones for the game-winner. Jack DeVita, Mickey and Pitones also scored against the Celtics.
Nick Currie and Niko Fallerias both had two goals in a 7-0 win over Cincinnati St. Xavier on Jan. 5.
Melliere, O'Brien leading bowlers
Senior John Melliere and junior Teague O'Brien have been the top performers for the bowling team, which was 6-1 overall, 5-1 in the COHSBC-D and 2-1 in the CCL after defeating Ready 2,086-1,873 on Jan. 6.
Melliere led the Cardinals with a 178.7 average through six matches, followed by O'Brien (175.1), Vincent Foresta (165.8) and Dino Colasurd (157.1).