Jake Nelson won 35 of his first 36 matches this season for the Groveport Madison wrestling team, with 29 of those matches ending in a pin.

If Nelson had to pick something about his season he hasn't liked, that might be it.

"I'd rather have a six-minute match all the time," said Nelson, a junior who wrestles at 220 pounds. "I'd rather have harder matches to wrestle than just pinning somebody quickly. I am really excited for the rest of the year and the postseason, (where) maybe I'll have some of those (full-length) matches. I can't wait."

This season has been the continuation of a solid career for Nelson, who owned Groveport's best record entering the Canal Winchester Invitational on Feb. 15. Nelson, who improved to 111-13 in his career when he pinned Newark's Jared Hawk in 3 minutes, 10 seconds Feb. 13, is seeking his third consecutive Division I district tournament appearance and first state berth.

"You have to be all in all the way to manage this long a season and be at your best at the right time," coach Brian Brison said. "Jake is that guy who never gets tired of it. He's the rare kid who wants to go all the time. He wrestles in tournaments all year. His love of the sport and his passion are really high. I don't think he can get burned out mentally. Physically can be a different story for anybody, no matter how good you are, but Jake just loves wrestling."

Nelson's only loss of the season before Feb. 15 came Jan. 23 against Big Walnut, when he temporarily moved up to heavyweight in order to fill that weight class.

Nelson went 39-9 as a freshman at 160 and 170, finishing second at the Marysville sectional and sixth at district. Last year as a sophomore, he was 37-3 at 195 and won the Upper Arlington sectional title but again placed sixth at district, two spots shy of a state berth.

Nelson's older brother, 2009 Groveport graduate Seth Nelson, was a Division I state qualifier in 2008 and 2009 and placed eighth at 215 as a senior.

"(Jake) was pretty special right away," Brison said. "I would wrestle him in practice when he was a freshman and he was able to do some things that surprised me, just his ability to counter different moves and scramble through different scenarios so well. It was really impressive."

Whereas Brison said Nelson is at his best on top, where he is able to move well, Nelson shied away from pinpointing a strength.

"I still have a few things I am working on," Nelson said. "If that is what coach likes, then that's something I am doing right. I think my strength is just not quitting, not stopping no matter where you are on the mat or what situation."

Groveport defeated Newark 46-24 to finish 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division, second behind Big Walnut (5-0). Nelson was one of nine Cruisers to post a win against the Wildcats.

The Canal Winchester Invitational was the final regular-season competition for Groveport, which will open the postseason Feb. 29 with a Division I sectional at Newark.

According to Brison, having an extra week before the postseason compared to past seasons presents challenges.

"We just have to worry about us and wrestling well with the matches that we have and building toward the end of the year," Brison said. "A lot of guys have individual goals of getting to district and a few have the goal of getting to state. It's a long season. We've backed off the past few weeks and we'll pick up the pace so we're not burned out at the end of the season."

Swimming season ends at district

Senior Madison Newsom of the girls swimming team swam a personal-best time of 5:33.26 in the 500-yard freestyle in the Division I district meet Feb. 13 at Ohio State, but the Cruisers' season ended at the meet.

Newsom, who dropped 6.41 seconds from her sectional time five days earlier at Upper Arlington, finished 26th. She also was on the 26th-place 200 free relay (1:51.24) with junior Jazlyn Winski, sophomore Gabby Monjaras and freshman Sydney Chandler.

The Cruisers did not score at district. OCC-Capital rival New Albany scored 378 points to finish first ahead of runner-up Dublin Coffman (278) as 26 teams scored.

"(The relay) got caught in some wake being in the middle lanes, which is what I was afraid of, but they did a good job. They improved where we needed them to improve," coach Ilana Webber said. "I am super proud of Maddy cutting those six seconds. She went her personal best and that's a great swim to go out on."

The top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to the state meet Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Other swimmers eligible to return include freshman Trinity Gullatt of the girls team and, on the boys side, junior Jaydan Henderson and sophomores Jaylen Brockman, Trevor Keane and Isaac Welsh.

"We saw a lot of growth," Webber said. "We're still pretty young as a program (four seasons). We see improvement every year and bigger growth at the end of this season."

Boys basketball team preps for Wildcats

Coming off a 62-60 overtime home loss to Big Walnut to end the regular season Feb. 14, the boys basketball team will visit 11th-seeded Westerville South in the first round of the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 22.

Groveport, which is seeded 30th of 49 teams, is 10-12 overall and finished 4-6 in the OCC-Capital. The Cruisers lost their final four league games after an 81-52 win over Franklin Heights on Jan. 17.

The Groveport-South winner will play 26th-seeded Briggs in the second round Feb. 28 at the home of the better seed.

Postseason update

The bowling teams will open the postseasons this week at HP Lanes.

The boys team will compete in the Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21, with the girls competing the following day.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave