Having lost its rock to graduation, the Grandview Heights wrestling team is rebuilding its foundation block by block.
The numbers are up for the Bobcats, with 15 competitors as compared to just seven last season, but they have no seniors and only two juniors. The roster features eight sophomores and five freshmen.
Hudson Jump graduated last spring after winning back-to-back Division III state titles -- at 220 pounds as a senior and at 195 as a junior -- leaving junior Gabhran Downer as the lone wrestler with varsity experience heading into this season.
"It's really nice to get some experience leading, getting you ready for life and stuff," said Downer, who competes at 195. "Last year it was all about learning from the older guys -- the seniors. It's been a fun experience.
"It's cool to work with them and see them getting better with wrestling. It's been cool watching them progress. One of the cool things is making them feel included. We want to make sure everyone comes here and has a good time."
First-year coach Mike Dodge knew Downer from being an assistant football coach with the Bobcats. He coaches the defensive linemen and running backs, working with Downer on the defensive front.
"Gabhran Downer has done a really good job for us," Dodge said. "He's been around and is the only kid really who understands the way leadership goes because he has been around other sports, including football.
"Coach (Jason) Peters preaches in football and we have tried to bring that into our wrestling program as far as accountability, helping out with the young dudes. Downer has stepped up and is being a good leader and that will carry into football next fall."
The Bobcats have suffered some attrition during the season, losing four participants. However, Dodge said the remaining wrestlers have a passion for being on the mat.
"The fact that they are still here and want to be a part of this, it goes to show you the way Grandview kids are," he said. "Most kids after going out and losing pretty badly, they would go out and say that they wouldn't want to do this anymore. The fact that they have stuck it out goes to show what kind of kids we have here. I'm very proud of them and I'm impressed with them."
Dodge likes what he has seen from sophomores Carter Black (170) and Mikael Black (152) and freshmen Walt Donahue (220), Jack Pulver (145) and Jason Reaser (138).
"If you would have seen those ... five kids at the beginning of practice until now, as far as their confidence, that's what really gets me excited and gets me going," Dodge said. "(I like) the fact that they still want to be here and the fact that they want to get better and work in the offseason to get better. That could be football or baseball or whatever they can do to be competitive in. At the beginning of the season, they weren't like that, but now they are willing to do other sports and get more involved. (It) just shows how much more confidence they have in themselves."
The Bobcats compete Saturday, Feb. 15, in the MSL-Ohio Division duals at Bexley.
Last season, they went 0-3 as Bexley (3-0) won the title.
"(The wrestlers') technique is getting better and I'm getting excited about getting the chance to compete in the (league) duals," Dodge said. "We'll go from there."
Girls basketball team prepares for district
The girls basketball team finished the regular season with three consecutive victories and is 9-13 overall.
The 16th-seeded Bobcats open the Division III district tournament Tuesday, Feb. 18, at home against 17th-seeded KIPP Columbus. The winner plays at second-seeded Cardington on Feb. 22 in the second round.
"I was a little disappointed in the way we were playing (in early January); we weren't clicking," coach Brian O'Mara said. "But when you look at us now everybody is getting involved.
"Whether it was a lack of formula or a lack of confidence in each other ... now you're seeing the ball move around more, you're starting to see more kids scoring and it's just a different feel. Maybe we're peaking at the right time."
The Bobcats closed the regular season with a 47-35 win over visiting Centerburg on Feb. 8. Hannah Yochem led with 15 points on five 3-pointers, Rachel Hartman had 12 points and Melana Pomerants added 10.
"I like the way we're playing, and I like our ball movement," O'Mara said. "Hannah is getting her points and Melana Pomerants has stepped up and decided she is going to shoot. I have Rachel and Mel shooting well, so then the defense has to respect more than just Hannah."
Grandview closed its MSL-Ohio schedule at 6-8 by defeating host Columbus School for Girls 46-35 on Feb. 7. Yochem scored 20 points with five 3s and Hartman had 10 points.
Freshman center Chai Dobbs-Euans added four points, seven rebounds and four assists.
"We're a young team, but we're having young players step up for us," O'Mara said. "Chai had seven rebounds and four assists against CSG and then had another six rebounds against Centerburg. It's a good time to have these freshmen stepping up."
Boys team earns top seed in district
The boys basketball team earned the top seed for the Division IV district tournament on the strength of four consecutive victories entering the draw Feb. 9.
The Bobcats were 15-5 overall and 7-4 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Wellington on Feb. 11. The Jaguars are the second seed.
Grandview opens the postseason at home Feb. 20 against 19th-seeded Danville. Coach Ray Corbett took the first bracket for a chance to play at Ohio University instead of traveling to Dayton for regional.
Grandview defeated league opponents Buckeye Valley 65-44 on Jan. 31, Whitehall 59-56 on Feb. 4 and Bexley 50-34 on Feb. 8.
"We have played well and we're in a tremendous league," Corbett said. "I think we're playing well and doing things that we weren't doing earlier in the season."
Girls swimmers win sectional title
The girls swimming and diving team competed in the Division II district meet Feb. 12 at Ohio State after winning a four-team sectional Feb. 8 at Upper Arlington.
Led by Phoebe Ferguson and Annie Volker, the Bobcats scored 340.5 points to outdistance runner-up Centennial (212).
Ferguson won the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 12.31 seconds) and 100 butterfly (59.17), and Volker was first in the 100 backstroke (1:02.32) and 200 freestyle (2:02.91).
Jada Heren won the 100 free (58.18), and Meghan Watters won the 50 free (26.62) and was runner-up in the 100 free (59.25).
The Bobcats also won all three relays. Volker, Heren, Sam Schaefer and Ferguson were on the 200 free relay (1:44.98) and 400 free relay (3:49.46). Greta Tew, Mabel Mattingly, Emma Rowland and Watters comprised the 200 medley relay (2:10.24).
The boys team was third (181) behind Wellington (290) and Centennial (217). Charlie Ferguson led by winning the 100 back (1:02.97) and 100 fly (53.56). He also joined Adam Ellis, Ethan Deis and Blake Yates on the first-place 200 medley relay (1:51.77) and runner-up 200 free relay (1:40.44).
Yates was second in the 200 free (1:59.61) and 100 fly (59.95).
A total of 27 at-large qualifiers in each sectional swimming event advanced to district based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
At district, the top two boys divers and top three girls divers advanced to state Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. The top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state Feb. 20 and 21. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded in each swimming event based on district times statewide.
Griffith to play baseball at Taylor
Senior catcher Jon-Micah Griffith has committed to play baseball at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.
Below are the coming schedules for the Grandview Heights boys basketball and bowling teams:
Feb. 14 -- Home vs. Caledonia River Valley
Feb. 14 -- Division II boys sectional at HP Lanes. The top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 20 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 15 -- Division II girls sectional at HP Lanes. The top 12 teams and top 12 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 20 at HP Lanes.