Grove City sophomore Francesca Lanese has helped blaze a trail for female athletes in the sport she loves.
Competing in the first Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association girls state tournament, Lanese won the championship at 160 pounds Feb. 23 at Hilliard Davidson.
She entered the two-day tournament seeded second and defeated top-seeded Sol Franco of Hilliard Bradley 4-0 in the final. Lanese had lost by pin to Franco earlier in the season.
"Francesca winning a state title is huge for the school and the program," boys coach Ryan Mitchell said. "Her accomplishment will help pave the way for future girls in our school to believe that they, too, can be wrestlers, and it shows all kids in these hallways and in this community that we are building the type of program that leads to success."
Competing in a 13-athlete bracket, Lanese had byes in the first two rounds before pinning Olentangy Orange's Reina Sautter in 1 minute, 27 seconds in a quarterfinal. She then pinned Galion's Larissa Franks in 1:44 in a semifinal to set up the rematch with Franco.
With girls coach Renay Bakley and Mitchell in her corner, Lanese scored a pair of points on stalling calls against Franco, another on an escape and the other on an illegal hold by Franco.
"She's a great wrestler and losing to her really motivated me to work harder throughout the season," Lanese said. "I knew I was going to face her at state. I just wanted to work harder so I could come back and beat her."
Moments after the win, Lanese was embraced by Bakley.
"This was our goal from the get-go," Bakley said. "Francesca had a goal in mind as soon as the season started. They've been talking about this tournament since the summer, so that's what we've been working on all year."
Lanese was ranked second behind Franco all season at 160 in the American Women's Wrestling state rankings. She finished 5-2 against girls and 5-5 overall.
Lanese accounted for the Greyhounds' 28 points at state, as they tied Vincent Warren for 29th behind champion Casstown Miami East (149.5) as 30 teams scored.
"She's a history maker, the first (girls) champ in Grove City," Bakley said. "It's an exciting time."
Grove City has had five boys win state titles, but none since Joe East finished first at 167 in Class AAA in 1979. East also won the Class AAA state title at 167 in 1978.
Orange was the top area team, finishing second (112.5) while Marysville was third (99.5).
Faith Gay, a Grove City junior in her first season in the sport, went 0-2 at state at 235. She finished 3-3 against girls and 3-6 overall.
Lanese, who began wrestling in the seventh grade at Jackson Middle School and completed her second season with the Greyhounds, credits a year-round commitment to the sport as a reason for her success.
She trains with coach Lou Demas in the offseason. Demas is the father of Oklahoma wrestler Dom Demas and former Ohio State wrestler Josh Demas, who were standouts at Dublin Coffman and Westerville North, respectively.
Event organizers hope girls wrestling eventually gets sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
"There's nothing like wrestling with huge crowds cheering for you," Lanese said of the first state tournament. "I love it here."
Stoll leads way at district meet
Senior Anna Stoll led the gymnastics team in the district meet Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, finishing 39th of 194 competitors in the all-around with a 32.675. She also tied for 28th on floor exercise (8.675).
Junior Genavieve Kuhn (30.75) and sophomore Emma Claypool (29.025) also competed in the all-around.
Other district competitors were seniors Bailey Bennett and Makayla Miller, junior Kamya Wilson, sophomores Madelyn Boyden, Marisa Rock and Morgan Waterman and freshman Natalie Foltz.
Grove City finished 13th (125.725) of 27 teams behind champion Thornville Sheridan (144.55).
"We did really well. I'm really happy," coach Mark Hartley said. "The competition in the district has improved a lot the last couple of years. It's pretty tough.
"I couldn't have asked for a better team. It's a good bunch of kids."
Boys squad falls at Central
The 23rd-seeded boys basketball team fell behind 11-0 and lost at 13th-seeded Westerville Central 61-41 on Feb. 27 in the second round of the Division I district tournament to finish 12-12.
Alex Coffey had 16 points to lead the Greyhounds, who defeated Central 52-43 in the Grove City Tip-off Classic title game Nov. 30.
"This game was different," coach Eric Saxton said. "It felt like there were eight guys in white jerseys out there all night. Tip your hat to Westerville Central. They came in here with some hunger and probably a little bit of payback on their minds and they did a great job preparing for us. We didn't have an inch of breathing room."
The Greyhounds defeated 24th-seeded Watkins Memorial 63-50 in the first round Feb. 22 at home. Coffey scored 23 points and Brock Waits added 22.