Taryn Martin and Anna Grabau both reached the awards podium for Olentangy Orange in the inaugural state girls wrestling tournament despite beginning the season at different ends of the sport's spectrum.
Martin, a junior who began competing in the sport as a sixth-grader, became the Pioneers' first state champion in girls or boys wrestling by winning the 137-pound title, while Grabau, a senior who first took to the mat last summer, placed third at 143.
The duo helped lead Orange to a runner-up finish in the state tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Davidson. The Pioneers scored 122.5 points to finish behind Casstown Miami East (149.5) and ahead of third-place Marysville (99.5) as 83 teams scored.
"The coaches told me that they were proud of me, not so much for my wrestling, but the way I have transitioned to wrestling girls," said Martin, who went 5-0 at state and pinned Big Walnut's Aliya Martin in 1 minute, 13 seconds in the championship match. "I only had wrestled boys before this year and an all-girls team is very different.
"Boys are a lot of jokesters, but the girls are more serious. They are new to the sport and want to grow. They want to be the best and they know that they can be because the sport is so new. You just have to work with everyone's personality."
The top six finishers in each weight class reached the awards podium to earn all-Ohio status.
Grabau went 3-1 at state and pinned Strongsville's Brynn Grahovac in 52 seconds in a consolation final to finish third. By placing in the top six, she reached a goal that she had set as a freshman, when wrestling wasn't in the picture.
"I always wanted to get my name up on the wall for being all-state," Grabau said. "With basketball, there probably wasn't a chance for me to have my name on the (school's) Hall of Fame wall. (Wrestling) gave me the opportunity to achieve the goal that I've had since my freshman year."
Junior Noel Frye went 3-2 and placed fourth at state at 160, being pinned by Galion's Larissa Franks in 4:24 in the consolation final, while senior Alayna Smith (160, 3-3) and sophomores Lexi Simmons (106, 2-3) and Aida Walters (150, 3-3) all placed sixth.
"There was a lot of emotion out there in wins and losses," assistant coach Vanessa Oswalt said. "I tell these girls that there's nothing like a wrestling win, and there's nothing like a wrestling loss. You feel it.
"Noel came off the mat telling me that she had failed. I said, 'Are you kidding me? You're a first-year wrestler and you just took fourth place at state. That's a heck of an achievement.' It gets pretty emotional."
Also competing at state were seniors Macy Carroll (121, 0-2), Paulette Vazquez-Rivera (106, 0-2), Alyssa Wallace (126, 2-2) and Christy Wingert (121, 1-2), juniors Natalia Muntanola Campos (131, 1-2), Emily Duval (101, 1-2) and Reina Sautter (160, 2-2) and freshmen Jolie Carroll (101, 0-2), Ayla Castin (111, 0-2), Augustine Davis (137, 2-2), Emily McManus (116, 0-2) and Talia Mitchell (170, 2-2).
"This whole team taking second place was amazing, and it's an honor to coach them," Oswalt said. "Taryn has been working at this for a while and Anna played basketball all of her life, but she worked hard and took third."
Hockey team falls in district semifinal
The hockey team fell short of reaching its first district final since 2014, losing to third-seeded Liberty 7-4 in a semifinal March 1 at Chiller North.
Liberty led 3-0 after one period, but the sixth-seeded Pioneers cut their deficit to 5-4 with five minutes left in the third on Payton Muth's second goal of the contest. The Patriots added a power-play goal with 1:27 left and an empty-net goal in the final minute.
"It's been the theme all year," coach J.D. Damrath said. "I don't know if I have ever been around a team with as much desire as we had in the third period. To dig out of a deficit like that and almost pull it out, the effort was off the charts."
Clayton Headlee and Cam Miller also scored for the Pioneers, who finished 22-12. Goaltender Kyle Diehr had 30 saves.
Orange knocked off second-seeded St. Charles 4-1 in a quarterfinal Feb. 29 as Headlee and Austin Knupp both had two goals.
Boys team was 'too inconsistent'
The 20th-seeded boys basketball team lost to 33rd-seeded Dublin Jerome 45-44 on Feb. 22 at home in the first round of the Division I district tournament to finish 14-9 overall.
Eighth-year coach Anthony Calo said his team was searching for answers all season.
"We're still processing the takeaways and what we can learn for next year," said Calo, whose team tied Olentangy for fifth in the OCC-Buckeye Division at 3-7, behind co-champions Liberty and Westerville South (both 7-3). "Who we wanted to be and who we were were two different things.
"We were not consistent with our effort and attention to detail. You look at the final play against Jerome and if we get one rebound, the game is over, but we missed a box out and that was it. We were too inconsistent with the details."
Orange was led by senior guard/forward Ryan Cutler, who averaged 14.6 points and made a team-high 41 3-pointers and was named honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. Cutler finished with 108 career 3s, tying 2013 graduate Nick Dietsch for the program record.
The Pioneers expect to have a strong nucleus return next season, led by junior guard/forward Jason Foster (honorable mention all-district, first-team all-league) and junior guard Andre Irvin (honorable mention all-district, special mention all-league).
Foster, a move-in from Northland, averaged 13.3 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds and had a program-record 68.3 field-goal percentage, while Irwin averaged 13.0 points in his second season as a starter.
Junior guard Jordan Bethel (honorable mention all-league) was a defensive standout for the Pioneers.
"We have a nice group coming back and we should be talented," Calo said. "Everyone has things that they need improve on, both mentally and physically."
Gymnasts end season at district
The gymnastics team ended its season in the district meet Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, but it won its first league championship since 2011.
The Pioneers finished 10th (130.0) of 27 teams at district, as Thornville Sheridan (144.55), Berlin (139.275) and Jerome (138.775) qualified for the state team meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley. The top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to the state individual meet Feb. 29 at Bradley.
"We knew it was going to be tough coming here because of the competition," first-year coach Amanda Gaylor said. "The girls did a really good job. There was a tight battle for second and third place and we knew it would have been tough for us to reach that."
Sophomore Molly Wheeler finished 21st of 194 competitors in the all-around (33.625) and was 16th on vault (8.475), senior Holly Schutte was 40th in the all-around (32.65) and 21st on floor exercise (8.825), junior Emma Wood tied for 56th in the all-around (31.45) and was 29th on vault (8.025), senior Olivia Dieckmann was 63rd in the all-around (30.8) and 34th on floor (8.6), and sophomore Riley Rankin was 119th in the all-around (23.9).
Orange won the OCC-Buckeye championship, going 8-0 with 20 points to finish ahead of runner-up Olentangy (16, 6-2).
The Pioneers won the league meet Feb. 11 at Hilliard Darby with a 131.125 to edge runner-up Olentangy (130.95), as Wheeler won the league's all-around title with a 34.075.