The Worthington Kilbourne wrestling team has ramped up its youth program in hopes of creating a pipeline of competitors into the middle school and high school programs, along with sparking interest in the sport among young athletes.
After having about 10 participants last year, there are about 30 this winter. The wrestlers, who consist of future Kilbourne students in kindergarten through sixth grade, learn the tricks of the trade while practicing twice a week, from November to March, in the high school practice room.
Members of the high school program serve as volunteer instructors, helping kids who might compete for the Wolves down the road.
"That's the main thing, to get them interested in the sport and to stick with it," youth coach Marcus Jameyson said. "That's a big part of getting them to stick with it is getting them some role models. We like having (the high school wrestlers) around because it gives them someone to look up to."
Jose Martinez, in his second season as Kilbourne's coach, wanted to make the youth program a priority because he believes it will create a strong base on which to build.
"We're trying to make sure we build a family with these guys and ... get to know them," he said. "The younger guys will look up to our older guys, and we know our youth is the future of our program."
The Wolves currently are 0-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. They lost to Dublin Scioto 59-24 on Dec. 12, Hilliard Darby 59-11 on Dec. 19 and Dublin Jerome 50-27 on Jan. 9.
Senior Sean Hoffman is one of the wrestlers who dedicates some of his time to coaching up the young athletes. He and his teammates try to instill a foundation in the sport consisting of a variety of skills while also setting a positive example.
"It's a mix of everything," Hoffman said. "We're trying to give them a basic skill set so they can go out and do what they need to do, but we're also teaching them life lessons to go along with wrestling. (It's about) building up good kids all around."
Nine-year-old Jack Ritchey, a third-grader at Granby Elementary, said he enjoys coming to practice to learn about the sport and to hang out with the high school wrestlers, who he said teach him a lot.
Ritchey said he wanted to join the youth program because his friends also were participating. His favorite parts of wrestling are pinning an opponent and the variety of moves he has learned.
"You can do a bunch of moves, and you can win matches," he said.
The young wrestlers' positive attitude has been noticed.
"They're excited to be here," Hoffman said. "They're always excited."
Martinez is pleased with the program and said he has contacted other coaches about setting up a youth league so kids can compete with one another and experience live action on the mat.
In the meantime, the young wrestlers are putting their energy to good use in the practice room.
"I get more feedback from the parents really than from the kids, but (the kids are) just in love with it. They're so happy," Jameyson said. "For one it makes the parents happy because they come and burn a lot of energy. It's impossible to not be in a good mood when you're at one of these practices.
"The kids are having so much fun it doesn't matter what else has happened so far that day. You're going to be grinning ear to ear the whole time you're in the room. Because these kids, they're maniacs."
Gymnastics team set for home meet
The gymnastics team will welcome squads from around central Ohio, along with a few from out of town, when it plays host to the Kilbourne Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 18.
"We have a couple of teams from out of the area, so that's always nice to see teams that we don't see on a regular basis," coach Cindy Fushimi said.
Area teams in the field are Big Walnut, DeSales, Dublin Coffman, Jerome, Scioto, Grove City, Olentangy Liberty and Westerville Central. Other teams are Cincinnati Anderson, Findlay, Medina Buckeye and Washington Court House Miami Trace.
The Wolves won their first two meets, Dec. 4 at Marysville and Dec. 11 at home, with scores of 135.15 and 134.55, respectively. They placed second in the Hilliard Invitational on Dec. 14 at Darby with a score of 132.675 and first at Miami Trace on Dec. 20 with a score of 130.
On Jan. 9 at home, Kilbourne had a 134.65 to finish second behind Jerome (135.75) and ahead of Scioto (123.45) and Coffman (89.9).
Fushimi said the team has been getting good performances from seniors Trinity Leo and Hannah Hale, juniors Emily Mosic, Sophie Baker and Sophie Seculov and sophomore Reagan Leo.
Burke, Rossette leading bowlers
The boys and girls bowling teams both were 3-2 in the COHSBC-B entering Jan. 15 contests against Scioto.
Through five matches, junior Connor Burke (179.9 average) and senior Kerim Pintol (176.8) were leading the boys and freshmen Delaney Rossette (166.9) and Brenna Burrell (154.4) were leading the girls.
Rossette turned in a stellar performance Jan. 13, rolling games of 212 and 289 in an 1,878-1,642 loss to Newark in an OCC-Cardinal match.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- At Dublin Jerome. The Wolves defeated the Celtics 63-43 on Dec. 6.
*Jan. 21 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley. The Wolves lost to the Jaguars 54-43 on Dec. 13.
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Jerome. The Wolves lost to the Celtics 46-39 on Dec. 6.
*Jan. 21 -- At Bradley. The Wolves defeated the Jaguars 43-39 on Dec. 13.
*Jan. 16 -- Pickerington Central at Capri Lanes
Jan. 18 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 21 -- Hilliard Darby at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Lancaster at Tiki Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 17 -- At Columbus School for Girls
Jan. 17-18 -- Top Gun Tournament at Alliance