Whetstone wrestler Darric McClinton was a City League champion two years ago as a freshman at 138 pounds, but he missed approximately half of last season because of academic ineligibility.
McClinton is back on the mat this season and has been dominating at 145. He has an 18-1 record and was ranked second in the area in his weight class last week by a panel of Division I Central District coaches.
"It makes me feel good, because last year I could have done something, but I was making mistakes with my grades," McClinton said. "This year, I accomplished getting my grades up so I was able to wrestle through the season, and that made me feel good."
According to coach Tom Jones, McClinton, who was a running back and linebacker for the football team last fall, has grown as an athlete and as an individual over the years.
"He's listening better. He's doing the little things outside of the wrestling room and wrestling mat better than years past," Jones said. "He's maturing."
McClinton's latest win came Feb. 5 in the annual Golden Grappler match against Centennial, where he pinned Brenden Focht in 1 minute, 46 seconds to help Whetstone defeat the Stars 48-28.
Also winning by pin against Centennial were seniors Hassan Sesay (170) and Preston Buterbaugh (182) and sophomore Jordan Brofford (220).
Next up for McClinton and the Braves is a four-team match Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Columbus Academy with New Albany and Thomas Worthington, followed by the City tournament Feb. 22 at Centennial.
The postseason begins Feb. 29 with a Division I sectional tournament at Watkins Memorial.
"My goals for the rest of the season are to play smart and don't get upset over a loss, because I still can make it and make it better," McClinton said.
"He's got competition that's coming for him," Jones said. "When you get ranked, you put a target on your back."
McClinton said he is prepared for what lies ahead and is training in the wrestling room and outside of it. In addition to working out and perfecting his technique in practice, he said he conditions at home by jumping rope, running and weightlifting.
"I'm a wrestler that plays smart and plays off (an opponent's) moves," McClinton said. "I'll shoot for the legs, I'll work top from bottom, everything."
McClinton said he intends to work on his top-position technique before the start of the postseason.
"Sometimes I struggle to get my opponent in a position to pin them, and then they'll flip back over," he said. "So I'm probably going to work on my top position."
McClinton said his family has played a major role in the athlete and person he has become, especially his mother.
"My family helped me become better at everything," he said. "They pushed me, they motivated me, they just get in my head. They say, 'You've got to do this, you've got to get better. You've got to get your grades up, stay on top.'"
Two boys relays advance to district
The swimming teams will be represented in the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State by two boys relays.
The 400-yard freestyle relay of Nick Timmons, Matthew Conroy, Joshua Richards-Jarvis and Aaron Shaefer is seeded 29th at district after finishing seventh (3:55.02) in the sectional at Upper Arlington on Feb. 8, and the 200 medley relay of Alex Marcum, Timmons, Javier Cruz and Isaac Shaefer is seeded 29th at district after placing eighth (1:58.31) at sectional.
At district, the top two finishers and 16 at-large qualifiers in each swimming event advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The girls team did not have any district qualifiers. The 400 free relay of Leah Schaefer, Cristin Flanagan, Emma Schaefer and Emilie Johnson placed eighth (4:31.93) at sectional, while the 200 medley relay of Leah Schaefer, Inez O'Malley, Johnson and Flanagan finished ninth (2:24.67).
At sectional, the winner of each swimming event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advanced to district.
The boys team finished seventh (53 points) of 11 teams at sectional, behind champion UA (467), while the girls team finished 11th (24) of 12 teams, behind champion UA (403).
Boys team to close regular season
The boys basketball team is 5-16 overall entering a home game against West on Thursday, Feb. 13, and finished 5-9 in the City-North Division.
Whetstone closed league play Feb. 7 with a 70-42 loss to Linden-McKinley. Junior guard Caleb Brigle had 16 points to lead the Braves, who have lost three games in a row.
Whetstone is seeded 48th in the 49-team Division I district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Braves will face third-seeded South or 47th-seeded Franklin Heights in a second-round game Feb. 28.
Broomfield announces college decision
Rashaun Broomfield announced Feb. 5 that he will play football at Alderson Broaddus in West Virginia.