Rebekah Oladokun never has been afraid to take on a challenge or, more recently, blaze a trail.

The DeSales freshman played both guard and tackle on the Walnut Springs Middle School football team's offensive line for two years before taking up wrestling, partly thanks to the suggestion of Pete Wegley, who was her sixth-grade science teacher and coached both teams.

Oladokun took to wrestling immediately, finishing first at 145 pounds in last year's Ohio Athletic Committee Junior High State Championships, and while she gave up football once she got to high school, she couldn't see herself giving up wrestling.

"I was really bad at tackling until I started wrestling," Oladokun said. "When I was in sixth grade, there was a girl on the wrestling team and then one of my friends wrestled in seventh grade and eighth grade. I wasn't the only one there like I am here."

Her decision paid off in the form of a medal Feb. 23, when Oladokun placed sixth at 143 in the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association's inaugural girls state tournament at Hilliard Davidson.

Oladokun went 4-2 at state, losing to Casstown Miami East's Korrah Patton 8-7 in the fifth-place match. Her other two losses came against Strongsville's Brynn Grahovac, 7-0 in the first round and 5-3 in a consolation semifinal.

Oladokun is the 123rd state placer in the history of the DeSales program.

"It was very different from most of my tournaments, where I'd been maybe the only girl or one of only three or four. It's very encouraging," Oladokun said. "It was great to be around other people like me, girls who wrestle."

Oladokun practices with the team and participates in most of their meets, although she broke away from the rest of the Stallions twice this season to participate in girls tournaments at Olentangy Orange, including one Jan. 4 in which she finished third.

"She's very flexible and she moves her body around a lot. She is really mobile (and) she hits a lot of moves I can't necessarily hit," said teammate Seamus Bonte, a freshman and frequent sparring partner of Oladokun who competes at both 145 and 152. "She's just like one of the guys. She bonded with us very well. It's been a great experience."

Assistant coach Toby Hawk instructed Oladokun at the girls tournaments.

Oladokun hopes the girls state tournament, which featured 234 wrestlers participating across 14 weight classes, is a sign of things to come.

According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, 20 states hold sanctioned high school girls state tournaments.

"I like that I am motivating people and making a difference," Oladokun said. "Last year, girls told me at the state tournament how cool they thought I was and that they looked up to me. I don't do any other sports. I figured if I stick with wrestling, I'll get better."

Boys basketball team reaches district semi

The third-seeded boys basketball team opened the Division II district tournament with an 84-61 win over 14th-seeded Centennial in a second-round home game Feb. 29.

Desmond Watson had 31 points and Kobe Righter scored a career-high 25 to lead DeSales, which improved to 17-6 and advanced to a district semifinal March 4 against second-seeded Heath.

The winner faces top-seeded Jonathan Alder or 18th-seeded Bexley in a district final Saturday, March 7, at Central Crossing, with the district champion advancing to a regional semifinal March 12 at Ohio University.

The Stallions lost to Jona-than Alder 49-44 on Jan. 4.

Girls basketball team reflects on season

For as many questions as girls basketball coach Erick Herzberg had about his team entering his first season, many were answered as DeSales finished 14-10 overall and 2-4 in the CCL, fourth behind champion Watterson (6-0).

"All we knew was that this team was down three starters, including one playing college ball, from a six-win team. We were prepared for some challenges," Herzberg said. "This team showed improvement the entire season. Many players were filling new roles that they never had (previously) and others were seeing their first significant varsity time. To be able to improve from six wins to 14 wins, while making these adjustments, says a lot about these players."

Senior guard Erin Burns averaged 8.9 points to pace the Stallions, who were seeded 24th in the 48-team Division I district tournament and lost 60-19 at fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman in a second-round game Feb. 21.

Burns, who earned first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district honors, also had 36 steals, second on the team to senior forward/guard Katie Schuler's 46.

Schuler, who also had a team-best 75 assists, averaged 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds and was second-team all-league along with junior center Gracie Sabo, who averaged 7.4 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds.

Junior forward Stefanie Karras averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Other players eligible to return include juniors Cara Jewett (forward) and Lauren Mitevski (guard) and freshman Jadyn Arnold (guard/forward).

Most of gymnasts expected to return

Five of the gymnastics team's six competitors are eligible to return, led by sophomores Cidney Barron and Gianna Cua.

Barron was the Stallions' top performer at the district meet Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, finishing 26th on uneven bars (7.9) and 31st on floor exercise (8.65). DeSales placed 20th (119.325) behind champion Thornville Sheridan (144.55) as 27 teams scored.

The top three teams advanced to the state team meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley and the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to the state individual meet Feb. 29 at Bradley.

Also expected back next year are sophomore Lauren Mahle and freshmen Michayla Northrup, Alex Shaw and Alex Walsh.

Hockey team ends rough season

The hockey team completed a winless season Feb. 22 with a 12-0 loss to eighth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in the first round of the district tournament at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

DeSales, which was seeded last of 25 teams in the district, finished 0-25 overall and 0-16 in the CHC, fifth in the Blue Division behind Columbus Academy (16, 7-7-1-1).

Nine freshmen were on the roster, including A.J. Cagnina (forward), Michael Friess (forward), Christopher Henderson (goaltender), Mateo Muller (defensemen), Lukas Seyboldt (forward) and Tyler Thompson (forward).

Other expected returnees include juniors Nick Bedzyk (forward) and Nathan Granata (defenseman).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave