The regular-season rehearsal is over for the Bexley wrestling team. Act one of the postseason is about to begin.
The Lions compete in a Division II sectional Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, at Licking Valley. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Wilmington.
"The regular season is just practice for the postseason," coach Chris Bragg said. "You don't care about winning and losing as much as if they are doing what we are teaching, if they are doing it the right way and if they are hitting moves with the right technique.
"At the beginning of the season you worry about everyone being in shape. Now you are into the season and everyone should be in shape. We need to perfect our technique and stay healthy."
Bexley had just one district qualifier last season in sophomore Noah Lyons, who went 0-2 at 138 pounds. Bragg said Lyons would miss the postseason with a knee injury.
There is only one Division II sectional in the Central District this season, so district qualifiers will be paired against opponents from western Ohio instead of from the East District.
"(The Central District) usually has two sectionals, but (teams) didn't have the (roster) numbers so we have only one," Bragg said. "I guess they wanted to get us away from the East District because it has strong teams like (Uhrichsville) Claymont, Steubenville, (Millersburg) West Holmes and (Lisbon) Beaver Local.
"They are some of the top teams in Division II, but we're going to Wilmington with the top team in the state (in St. Paris Graham), even though they lost to Louisville (34-30 on Feb. 16) in the final of the state duals. That was the first time they lost that."
Bexley is coming off an MSL-Ohio Division tournament in which it missed out on a fourth consecutive league title by the slimmest of margins. Competing Feb. 15 on their home mats, the Lions were edged 83-82 by Buckeye Valley.
The team's only senior, Carter Brenner, won the league championship at 138. Freshmen Izaya Faulkner (160), Ezra Kerns (170) and Clifford Padmore (182) also captured league titles.
"It was unfortunate to lose by one point, but we were happy with the way our kids wrestled," Bragg said. "Everyone is getting better. We have no juniors and a lot of sophomores and freshmen. For our young guys, (the sectional) will be a huge learning experience. If we can sneak some of our young guys in (as district qualifiers) that would be great.
"Carter has the expectation that he's going to district and he's going to compete to get to the state tournament. That's what he wants and, obviously, that's what we want for him. The young guys hopefully are going to follow his lead."
Kerns believes winning his weight class in the league tournament will help him in his first postseason.
"It does give me some confidence," he said. "I can look back at the film and see things that I need to work on. There are things that I could have done better. I also could see what I did right and continue to work on those things.
"It will be more competitive in the postseason. (Bragg) wants to make sure we're all in shape and good at our go-tos, the moves that we want to hit. He wants us to stay healthy and continue working on our conditioning."
Boys basketball team begins district play
The 18th-seeded boys basketball team was 5-17 before opening the Division II district tournament at ninth-seeded Watterson on Feb. 26.
The winner plays 17th-seeded Lakewood in the second round Saturday, Feb. 29, at the home of the better seed.
Girls basketball team drops district opener
The 11th-seeded girls basketball team lost at 10th-seeded Sparta Highland 41-29 on Feb. 17 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
Freshman guard/forward Sophia Sheridan scored 11 points to lead the Lions, who finished 11-12 overall. Post player Shyla Hutchins, the team's lone senior, was next with six points.
"We only lose Shyla, and she played above what we anticipated," said first-year coach Brycen Baugh, whose team finished third (10-4) in the MSL-Ohio behind Whitehall (13-1) and Worthington Christian (12-2). "We got some good defense and she got some big rebounds and some points after not playing a lot in j.v. as a junior. We will miss her length and size."
Junior point guard Maddy Young (first-team all-league) averaged a team-high 11.1 points, and junior guard/forward Aly Cox (honorable mention all-league) was a standout defender.
Sophomore guard Grace Heilman (4.3 points, team-high 2.1 assists, team-high 2.1 steals), freshman guard/forward Sydnie Smith (6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Sheridan (5.1 points, team-high 3.8 rebounds; honorable mention all-league) also are expected to return.
"The good thing about freshmen and sophomores is they are coming back and they are going to get better," Baugh said. "It will be interesting to see how much they improve."
Bowling teams end season at sectional
The boys and girls bowling teams ended their seasons in the Division I sectional tournament at HP Lanes.
On Feb. 21, the boys finished 37th (2,808) of 47 teams behind champion Reynoldsburg (3,991) as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on those teams advanced to district Saturday, Feb. 29 at HP Lanes.
Seniors Tyler Roberts (521, 64th of 270 bowlers), Jordan Herman (432, 129th), Zach Herman (421, tied for 131st) and Connor McGlinchey (350, tied for 161st) all rolled three games.
Roberts earned MSL-Ohio Player of the Year honors by rolling a 597 in the league tournament Feb. 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The boys were fifth (2,895) in the six-team event.
The girls team did not have the requisite five bowlers for a team score at sectional Feb. 22 and did not have an individual qualifier to district.
Senior Haven Horton-Kunce rolled a 408 to finish 85th of 195 bowlers.
Seniors Maggie Hayes (327, 147th), Sophie Appelbaum (285, tied for 162nd) and Jomana Medany (267, 171st) also competed.
The Lions finished sixth (1,478) in the MSL-Ohio tournament. Hayes (401) was second-team all-league.