Wrestling hasn't been easy for Pickerington North's David Carte during the past year.

The junior started 22-5 as a sophomore before a broken right ankle cost him the rest of the season and dashed his hopes of making the Division I district tournament.

Then after a rigorous offseason spent trying to get up to speed, Carte weighed in at 153 pounds before the season-opening Bad Apple Brawl on Dec. 7 at Mount Vernon.

Even so, Carte finished second at 152, a performance he hoped was a sign of things to come.

Four top-five finishes later, including one championship, he is as confident as ever that this season will turn out much better than last.

"At 152, everybody else was just too strong for me, so it was too hard for me to keep me up, but once I got down to (138), (opponents) weren't able to outmuscle me," said Carte, who is 26-7 entering the Panthers' final OCC-Ohio Division dual of the season Thursday, Feb. 13, at Pickerington Central.

"I could use more of my technique instead of strength. At 152, I wasn't as strong as my opponents, so they would outmuscle me. Everything was a lot harder."

Carte agreed that his success has coincided with a drop back to his natural weight class.

He cut to 145 for the two-day Liberty Classic that concluded Dec. 14 at Olentangy Liberty, where he finished sixth, and remained in that class for the Kevin Cleveland Invitational on Jan. 4 at Dublin Scioto, in which he placed fifth.

Carte dropped to 138 and won North's Panther Invitational Tournament on Jan. 18 and placed third in Watkins Memorial's Mason Boyd Memorial Wrestling Tournament seven days later.

"He was coming along last year at this time, too, before he broke his ankle. He's the kind of kid who comes on at the end of the season," coach Derek Oney said. "He beat a lot of good guys last year, but he didn't get the recognition he deserved because he didn't qualify for district. I think he'd have done well. He just keeps chipping away."

Carte, who said improper dieting caused his weight gain, has emphasized moving his feet this season. His offseason included attending the Buckeye Elite Camp, run by former Buckeye and four-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber.

"Last year, I'd be flat-footed so if someone would ankle-pick me or take a shot, it'd be a lot harder to defend," Carte said. "But since I've started moving my hands and feet more, they don't have an opportunity to shoot on me.

"I've been working since last spring to get to this point. Once I broke my ankle, all I wanted to do was wrestle once I was able to wrestle. I'd go to clubs and I think that helped out a lot with getting back into wrestling shape. I've done a lot of work on my own to help me get here, but there is a lot more I can do."

North, which is 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio, split its two matches in the Division I, Region 6 team dual tournament Feb. 8 at Hilliard Darby. Seeded fourth of 11 teams, the Panthers beat fifth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 40-28 in a quarterfinal before losing to top-seeded and eventual regional champion Upper Arlington 65-6 in a semifinal.

Swimmers set for district meet

Ten swimmers -- five boys and five girls -- will represent North in the Division I district meet Thursday, Feb. 13, at Ohio State.

Rylee Kreinbrink's win in the 100-yard butterfly (58.02 seconds) as well as Lindsey Keaton's runner-up finish in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.9) and fourth-place finish in the 100 fly (59.45) in a sectional Feb. 8 at UA led the girls team to 187 points and third place behind the host and champion Golden Bears (403) as 11 teams scored.

Regan Turnbull placed third in the 200 individual medley (2:16.54) and fourth in the 100 breast (1:08.93).

Connor Daniel finished second in the 100 backstroke (54.07) and fifth in the 200 IM (2:04.3) to lead the boys team to 208 points and second place behind UA (467) as 10 teams scored. Marcus Schwartz was fourth in both the 100 breast (1:00.91) and 200 IM (2:02.97).

At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

The boys diving district meet was Feb. 12 at Ohio State. The top six finishers advanced to state Feb. 22.

Boys basketball team tries for league title

The boys basketball team enters its final game of the regular season Friday, Feb. 14, at Grove City needing a win and a Gahanna loss to Central that same night to share its second consecutive OCC-Ohio championship.

Hunter Shedenhelm had 20 points, Casey George scored 11 and Chris Scott added 10 to lead the Panthers to a 64-57 home win over Reynoldsburg on Feb. 7, their sixth victory in a row. North and Central are tied for second place in the league, one game behind Gahanna (8-1).

North, which is 17-4 overall, began last week with an 82-45 win at Canal Winchester on Feb. 4 in which Jerry Saunders had 18 points, Shedenhelm scored 16 and Scott added 13.

The Panthers have not lost since a 65-63, triple-overtime setback to Central on Jan. 17.

"We've persevered. Our losses have been tough, but (they have been followed by) good mornings because we know we're close to where we want to be," coach Jason Bates said. "The guys have believed in the system and bought in. We're on the right path."

North earned the fifth seed in the 49-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 43rd-seeded Logan in the first round Feb. 22.

Athletes announce college decisions

Four student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 5.

Roxianne Herdman will play softball at Ohio Christian, Zach Pressnell will play baseball at Urbana, Scott will play football at Cincinnati and Lawson Vaughn will play football at Georgetown in Kentucky.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave