When describing the relationship between senior Hassan Sesay and junior Sallah Abdulraham, Whetstone wrestling coach Tom Jones said, "One goes as the other goes."
Sesay (160 pounds) and Abdulraham (170), who both were 18-5 entering the Panther Invitational on Jan. 18 at Pickerington North, share a mutually beneficial friendship that's built on coaching each other and helping each other grow.
They're similar, yet different. Jones said they complement each other like "yin and yang."
"When you watch them walk in (to the weight room), it's like, 'Are you guys related?,' because they do almost look like they're related, based on their build," Jones said. "(But) Hassan's business, (while) Sallah's captain chill."
Sesay and Abdulraham's friendship was seeded in their common African ancestry. Sesay was born in the U.S. after his parents emigrated from Sierra Leone, while Abdulraham was born in Gambia before his family immigrated to the U.S.
"We have a lot to relate to, and I feel like that helps us both on the mat and outside of school," Sesay said. "We coordinate so I can help him with his work and stuff, and he can help me on the mat. It's mutual."
"We have strong chemistry between us, so we work together and work hard," Abdulraham said.
"And make each other stronger," Sesay added.
The two are three-sport athletes for Whetstone. Both compete in track and field in the spring, while Abdulraham plays football in the fall and Sesay runs cross country.
Jones said the two have worked together closely since Sesay's older brother, Ibrahim "Speedy" Sesay, graduated in 2018. Ibrahim Sesay was a three-time City League champion and two-time Division I district qualifier who competed at 160 as a senior.
"The year 'Speedy' left and graduated, Sallah just happened to come right in and fill that void perfectly," Jones said. "It's not quite like a big brother-little brother relationship, it's more like a 'you're my equal.'"
Given that both are long and lengthy athletes, Sesay and Abdulraham said they have worked together to develop a similar style of wrestling that focuses on their strengths -- a style less predicated on grappling and locking up versus shooting for opponents' legs and using their power and speed to their advantage.
"Because we have the same body build, we focus on the same things," Sesay said. "We go low and we aim for the legs. We don't tie up and stuff like that. We shoot singles and stuff like that. We use our legs to our advantage."
"This year, I just started shooting singles because I feel like it helps me out more," Abdulraham said. "Because of my lengthiness, I can just snag (the legs)."
Both have helped each other's skills improve this season.
"I'd say I learned a lot from him because of his strength," said Sesay, who finished 23-10 last season. "He has the strength and speed, so that really helps me going into both types of opponents, the really strong and short guys and the quick guys. That helps me a lot."
"He helps me out when I go against him," said Abdulraham, who went 22-11 and was a district alternate last season. "Wrestling him, it's like when I'm wrestling other tall guys, I'll just be like, 'Oh, this is like wrestling Hassan.'"
As key pieces for Whetstone this season, both feel optimistic about their team as it prepares to compete in the City tournament Feb. 22 at Centennial as well as in the postseason, which begins Feb. 29 with a sectional at one of four locations.
Other seniors with winning records entering the Panther Invitational included Jack Zimmerman (4-2 at 126), Johney Kincaid (9-7 at 132), Ford Buterbaugh (9-4 at 152) and Preston Buterbaugh (9-3 at 182).
"Our team is really built up from last year," Sesay said. "Last year, we had not a single senior, and this year, half of us are seniors. From that, that's a really good thing, not a bad thing, because we can build off that strength. And even add newcomers to the list.
"For Citys, I feel like we have a good shot to place top two, if anything, because our seniors are teaching the young ones."
Girls swimming team focused on improving
Swimming coach Diane Barnhart said the girls team has made an effort to improve this season and is setting the stage for next season.
"I think this year the girls are really focused on getting better," Barnhart said. "We have four or five seniors that are graduating, but we have quite the class coming up behind them, and they're really focused. They're very eager to figure out what they can do better, how they can improve, and they work really hard."
According to Barnhart, among the standouts have been Leah Schaefer, a senior who competes in the 200-yard individual medley, and her sister, Lydia Schaefer, a junior who competes in the freestyle sprints, as well as senior Emmie Johnson, who competes in the 100 butterfly.
"We are going to lose a great butterflier when she graduates," Barnhart said of Johnson.
The Braves fell just two points shy of placing second in a tri-meet against Grove City and Central Crossing on Jan. 14 at the Grove City YMCA.
"We were just that close, and that's a real accomplishment because Grove City, I think, is a really good team, and Central Crossing as well," Barnhart said.
Timmons has career game for boys team
Senior guard Alex Timmons scored a career-high 19 points, including three 3-pointers, in a 52-46 win over East on Jan. 17 to help deliver the boys basketball team's second victory of the season.
Junior guard Caleb Brigle added 10 points for Whetstone, which also beat the Tigers 58-47 on Dec. 10.
The Braves were 2-11 overall and 2-5 in the City-North before playing Centennial on Jan. 21.
Whetstone lost 61-26 to Northland on Jan. 10 and fell to Linden 66-42 on Jan. 14.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 24 -- Home vs. Columbus International
Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Independence
*Jan. 28 -- Home vs. Mifflin. The Braves lost to the Punchers 78-47 on Dec. 20.
*Jan. 24 -- At Columbus International
Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Independence
*Jan. 28 -- At Mifflin. The Braves lost to the Punchers 60-50 on Dec. 20.
*Jan. 23 -- Centennial at Sequoia Pro Bowl
*Jan. 28 -- South at Sequoia Pro Bowl
*Jan. 23 -- Linden-McKinley and South at home