Garrett Meek's season with the Pickerington Central wrestling team is less than two months old, but he and the Tigers are in the final stages of preparing for a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 29, at Newark.

Despite Meek having gone 16-6 at heavyweight and owning one of the best records on the team, coach Jason Allen said Meek still is rounding into wrestling shape given that he missed much of the first month of the season after helping the football team to the state championship.

"He's not quite there, but he's getting there. He's only had two months really to get into shape, whereas the other guys who are just wrestlers were here before November," Allen said. "It's his work ethic that sets him apart. He's behind the 8-ball when he comes here because he's already late, so when he gets here he realizes that if he wants some success, he's going to have to work hard and that's what he's doing."

Meek, a junior, has placed in the top four of each of his four tournaments, including a runner-up finish in the Porter Memorial Tournament on Jan. 11 at Hilliard Bradley. That came seven days after his season debut in the Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto, in which he placed fourth.

Meek, who went 26-11, placed fourth at sectional and did not win either of his district tournament matches as a sophomore, is a two-year starter at right guard for the football team. He helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 30.8 points and amassed 5,325 total yards this past fall.

"I'd like to be doing a little bit better (at wrestling). I've had a lot of good matches and I'm excited with where I am," Meek said. "I needed time to get into wrestling shape, a month or so anyway, and that's where we are now.

"In football, especially on the offensive line, it's a couple steps and then you get a break. In wrestling, it's two hard minutes, a 30-second break and two more hard minutes. You're just going and going. Endurance is a big part of this."

The district's top two seeds, Dublin Coffman and Lancaster, are competing at Newark. The next best-seeded team is Westerville South (24th).

Central is seeded 25th of 47 teams in the district.

"That is a good thing, in my mind, because when guys qualify on to district, we'll be separated from (the top teams)," Allen said. "Sectional will be tougher at Newark for a number of guys, but when we get to district, maybe it will be a better road. It's really not so bad. I think then, maybe we'll have a better chance to move on to the state tournament."

Rounding out the sectional field are Grove City, Groveport, Mifflin, New Albany, St. Charles, Whitehall and the host Wildcats.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

"I'm going to face some great opponents. I'll have to earn (a district berth)," Meek said. "I've really improved on my feet and when I get underhooks, I'm successful with those and being able to push the pace of a match."

Girls bowlers, Bookman advance to district

The girls bowling team and Drew Bookman of the boys team will represent Central in the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 29, at HP Lanes.

The girls finished 16th (2,783) of 42 teams in the sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, behind champion Westerville Central (3,653).

The previous day in the boys sectional at the same facility, Bookman finished 34th (548) of 270 bowlers to earn an individual district berth. The Tigers finished 28th (3,215) of 47 teams, behind champion Reynoldsburg (3,991).

The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams at both sectionals advanced to district.

At district, the top three boys teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams as well as the top four girls teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state March 6 and 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

Girls team romps into district semifinal

The fifth-seeded girls basketball team played 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 26, needing two wins this week to capture its fifth consecutive district championship.

Central was 19-5 before playing Scioto, coming off a 70-11 home win over 45th-seeded Westland in the first round Feb. 15 and a 90-3 rout of 48th-seeded Whetstone in a second-round game Feb. 21. Nicole Stephens had 24 points against the Cougars and she and Madison Greene each scored 14 against the Braves.

Felesia Ondongo added 13 points and Kyah Ewing scored 12 against Whetstone as the Tigers led 33-0 after a quarter and 65-1 at halftime.

The Central-Scioto winner will play second-seeded Watterson or 13th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a district final Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The district champion will face Canal Winchester, Newark, Olentangy Liberty or Watkins Memorial in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 3, at Otterbein.

Central lost to Newark 66-48 on Feb. 8.

Six key swimmers expected to return

Six of the swimming team's eight Division I district qualifiers -- half of whom advanced in individual events -- are eligible to return next season.

Junior Brett Eberhardt competed at district Feb. 13 at Ohio State in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free but fell short of a state berth. For the girls team, sophomores Makenna Garn (100 breaststroke) and Bella Jones (100 free) qualified as individuals.

Other district qualifiers expected back, all for the boys team, are juniors Braeden Lehrman and Alex Rowles and sophomores Richard Caceres-Gamero and Broderick Thompson.

Eberhardt had been seeking to lengthen Central's and his own family's streak of state appearances to four years. Nathen Eberhardt, who now swims for Cleveland State, competed at state in 2018 and 2019 and Trace Eberhardt advanced in 2017.

Of the Tigers' 17 total swimmers, others eligible return are sophomores Jared Everhart and Alex Shinaver and freshmen Neghmi Alhayeh and Doug Graham for the boys team and sophomore Kaitlynn Flemons and freshmen Cassidy Curba, Abby Marquart and Kathleen Mowery for the girls team.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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