When Brent Allerding became coach of the Westland wrestling team before last season, his long-term goal was to build it into an elite program in central Ohio.

Although there has been improvement, the Cougars have yet to reach that level.

"In the OCC, even if you're outmatched you can't get pinned," Allerding said. "You can't give up six points, so we're trying to work on wrestling smarter."

The Cougars will face a key test when they battle Central Crossing on Thursday, Jan. 30, at home in an OCC-Central Division match.

Westland defeated the Comets 45-33 last season in Allerding's first match in the rivalry.

"It will be a tough one," Allerding said. "They're better than they were a year ago and we're fighting through some injuries. That will be our senior night, so they'll be pretty hyped up for that one."

Central Crossing had won the previous seven meetings in the series, with the Cougars' last win before last season being a 44-34 victory in the 2011-12 season.

"We really respect what they're doing over there," Central Crossing coach Jamie Ramirez said. "I know they have a couple young kids. I've seen them in youth (wrestling) with my own boys. I know they're hard workers and they get after it. It's not the same old Westland teams we've faced in the past."

Westland was 1-1 in the league before facing Dublin Coffman on Jan. 23. The Cougars opened league action with a 57-17 loss to visiting Marysville on Jan. 9 and then won 35-33 at Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 16.

Winners by pin against Davidson were Bryson Palmer at 126 pounds, Jakob Hurley at 145 and Johnny Douglas at 170.

Senior Darius Lightfoot has played a role in the team's improvement, as he was 9-8 at 160 before competing against Coffman.

"Coach has put us in a lot of new tournaments and we're definitely getting a whole lot of new and difficult experiences," Lightfoot said. "In the long run, especially for the younger wrestlers, we're definitely going to be better skilled. Personality-wise and character-wise, everyone is also getting better."

Lightfoot is seeking his first Division I district tournament berth.

"My goal this season is to get to the state tournament and if I could get there, I could really set an example for future Westland wrestlers," he said. "I know that we have others who have a great chance of going to the state tournament also and if I could set a great example that would be amazing."

Heading into Jan. 23, Palmer was leading Westland with a 19-5 record, followed by Trent Jude (18-5, 120), Tyler Jude (16-6, 113), Hurley (13-5), Douglas (11-10), Jacob Mullens (10-9, 195), Axel Ventura (9-7, 106) and Lightfoot.

The Cougars will prepare for the postseason by competing in Region 6 of the team dual tournament, beginning Feb. 8 at Hilliard Darby. They went 1-1 in the event last season, defeating Grove City 41-31 and losing to host Darby 55-17.

The Cougars will compete in a sectional Feb. 29 at a site to be determined.

"We want to win tournaments and win duals, but it's all about adding up to the postseason and getting your name on the wall," Allerding said. "That's goal No. 1 for us outside of being a man of character. As far as pure wrestling goes, that's our goal, be a legend in the community."

The names of the program's state qualifiers and state placers are displayed on the walls of the wrestling room.

Boys basketball team looks to snap skid

The boys basketball team entered its game against Coffman on Jan. 24 at 2-13 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Central. The Cougars had lost four consecutive games.

Westland lost to visiting Canal Winchester 75-65 on Jan. 21. Hunter Corwin led the Cougars with 17 points, followed by Kalil Camara with 14 and Drew Panning with 12.

Camara scored 11 points in a 53-40 loss at Marysville on Jan. 17.

Girls basketball team seeks first league win

The girls basketball team entered play Jan. 24 still looking for its first league win since the 2015-16 season, when it defeated Central Crossing 37-35 on Nov. 27, 2015.

The Cougars had lost 50 consecutive league games before playing Coffman on Jan. 24.

Westland entered the game 3-12 overall and 0-7 in the league.

The Cougars have league games remaining with Upper Arlington on Friday, Jan. 31, and Davidson on Feb. 7.

Westland lost at Canal Winchester 60-22 on Jan. 24 as Alexxus Phifer led the Cougars with eight points.

The Cougars lost to Marysville 56-18 on Jan. 17 and Davidson 69-33 on Jan. 16. Hannah Kershaw scored 10 points against Davidson.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving teams and wrestling teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Jan. 28 -- Home vs. Groveport

*Jan. 31 -- At Upper Arlington. The Cougars lost to the Golden Bears 62-46 on Dec. 20.

Feb. 1 -- At St. Charles

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Jan. 27 -- Home vs. Beechcroft

Jan. 29 -- At Briggs

*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. UA. The Cougars lost to the Golden Bears 46-12 on Dec. 20.

GYMNASTICS

*Jan. 28 -- At *Dublin Coffman with *Central Crossing, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights and *Grove City

SWIMMING & DIVING

Feb. 1 -- UA Invitational

WRESTLING

*Jan. 30 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

*League contest