After leaving the program last winter, Grove City senior wrestler Joey Woolard returned this year expecting to make a run in the postseason.
Woolard and his teammates begin that journey Saturday, Feb. 29, in a Division I sectional at Newark. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
Woolard, who was 29-6 at heavyweight with 16 pins before competing in the Westland Duals on Feb. 22, already had reached a pair of goals heading into that event. He wanted to collect at least 25 wins and go undefeated in OCC-Ohio Division duals, during which he went 5-0 to earn first-team all-league honors.
His most important goal, however, is qualifying for his first state tournament March 13-15 at Ohio State.
"We're preparing pretty hard right now," Woolard said. "I accomplished a couple of my goals that I set for myself in the pre- season. We're trying to get each other ready as much as we are for ourselves."
Woolard didn't wrestle as a freshman and missed the postseason as a sophomore because of a concussion.
"I'm looking forward to the district tournament," said Woolard, who also is seeking his first district berth. "My biggest goal right now is to go to state. I know I have to get through sectional first, but right now I'm preparing for the best."
Coach Ryan Mitchell hopes a challenging schedule has helped prepare his team for the postseason.
"With the schedule that we've had this year, we are prepared to get into the postseason because we haven't had cupcake tournaments," he said. "We've put ourselves against good competition, so when it comes to sectional, we've seen tough competition throughout the season and that will make us ready for what's coming up. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Grove City should have several other wrestlers contend for district berths.
Before competing at Westland, sophomore Brayden Benson was 23-9 with 13 pins at 195 pounds and freshman Slade Waller was 17-14 with 11 pins at 113.
Freshman Braxton Sheets is 16-6 with seven pins at 113 but has missed time with a hand injury. Mitchell hopes Sheets will be ready for the postseason.
Freshman Drew Palmer was 16-14 with five pins at 106, junior Carlin Hamilton was 16-15 with nine pins at 170 and senior Sean Burns was 15-8 with seven pins at 120.
"There's a pretty wide variety of what I think," Mitchell said regarding the number of potential district qualifiers. "Our floor is probably five or six and our ceiling could be as high as 12, and anywhere in between I would not be surprised. When you get to the postseason it's a different kind of mindset.
"You still have to go out there and wrestle, but there is something that happens to some wrestlers when it's win or go home. Sometimes people step up from that and then sometimes people shrink from that, and that will be a big determining factor as to whether we're closer to our floor or our ceiling."
Routh swims at state meet
Sophomore swimmer Hannah Routh competed in her second Division I state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Routh finished 16th in the 100-yard butterfly (57.52 seconds) and 100 backstroke (57.99).
"It was amazing to make it to (the consolation) finals in both the 100 fly and 100 back," she said. "I gave it all I had and I'm happy that I got the chance to swim at state as a sophomore. I'm thankful that I have a coach like Amy (Miller), who has my back at state and supports me. It was an incredible weekend and I hope to make it back in 2021."
Last season, she finished 14th in the 100 back (57.35) at state.
The boys team closed its season at district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. Joseph Martin, who was one of three seniors, teamed with junior Gregory Kingsbury and sophomores Jacob Antonelli and Gunnar Byas to finish 17th in the 400 free relay (3:32.74) and 20th in the 200 medley relay (1:47.92).
"It was a good experience for them," Miller said of district. "They understand what they have to do for next year and what they need to work on."
Girls basketball team makes progress
After finishing 3-20 in coach Joel Taylor's first season, the girls basketball team improved to 6-17 overall this winter.
"We went from three wins to six wins," Taylor said. "We've gotten a lot better in a lot of phases of the game, but we still have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot of improvements to make. We'll be getting started shortly for next season."
Grove City lost at sixth-seeded Westerville North 50-12 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 15. Freshman guard Kayla Jones led the 37th-seeded Greyhounds with four points.
Forward/post player Madison Grube led a five-player senior class and was named second-team all-OCC-Ohio. She averaged a team-high 7.3 points.
Sophomore guard Ellie Pollock-Ballard was special mention all-league and senior guard Alexia Jones was honorable mention all-league.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Laney Hoyt (guard), Allyson Pape (post player) and Riley Waugh (forward/post player), sophomores Olivia Bartley (guard) and Alissa Schiff (guard) and freshman Olivia Kenney (guard).
"We have some young kids coming back," Taylor said. "We'll be a different kind of team, but hopefully we'll be better and continue to improve."
Grove City went 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind co-champions Gahanna and Pickerington Central (9-1).
The Greyhounds defeated Pickerington North 40-35 on Dec. 3 and 34-29 on Jan. 10 for their league wins.