After going 2-2 at district last season and failing to place, Columbus Academy wrestler Gyvnn Mendenhall recommitted himself in the offseason in an effort to reach the sport's next level.
That dedication paid off with a second-place finish at 195 pounds in the Division III district tournament March 6 and 7 at Heath. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
"I think it's my growth as an athlete from last year," the sophomore said as a key to his improvement. "I'm stronger and faster."
He went 3-1 at district to enter state at 41-5.
"I think I wrestled well," he said. "There's some minute things I need to fix. ... I'm going to (compete) the best I can (at state)."
Mendenhall is the Vikings' first state qualifier since 2017-18, when Josh Pearson went 1-2 at 220.
Coincidentally, Mendenhall remains in contact with Pearson, who has provided guidance and support.
"It's a pretty cool thing," Mendenhall said. "He can show me the ropes."
Mendenhall, who also competed at 195 last season, advanced to the district final by collecting three pins. He then lost to Martins Ferry senior Richard McFarland 5-2 in the title match.
"He did a great job," coach Paul Bukky said. "He had three falls along the way. The last match was a close one -- it could have gone either way -- but in the last few seconds, it went the other guy's way. He did an excellent job. He puts his heart into it. He's a good, solid kid all the way around."
As Academy's lone district qualifier, Mendenhall scored 24 points. That tied the Vikings for 22nd behind champion Marion Pleasant (132.5) as 53 teams scored.
Mendenhall's success on the mat follows a football season in which he was a standout lineman for the Vikings. He was first-team all-district in Division V, first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division and second-team all-state.
"He's a worker," Bukky said. "It's good impetus for him going into state. Hopefully he can win a couple of matches down there. He's good enough to place. It just depends on the draw. If he gets a good draw, great, then I think he can do well. He has a few mechanical things that we have to work on, but it's something that we can take care of like technique-wise."
Boys coach pleased with season
Guiding a team that entered the season with minimal expectations, boys basketball coach Jeff Warstler was pleased with the Vikings' development.
The 12th-seeded Vikings reached a Division III district semifinal before losing to top-seeded Harvest Prep 65-41 on March 3 at Bloom-Carroll to finish 11-13 overall.
"Anybody who watched us knows those kids overachieved," Warstler said. "It never feels that way when you lose in the moment, but at the beginning of the year, I didn't know if we'd win 11 games and they did. I couldn't be more proud of the way they did, and I couldn't be more proud of our (four) seniors. They never stopped playing hard."
Harvest Prep also eliminated the Vikings last season, winning 71-67 in a district final.
Sophomore post player Kevin Reeves led Academy in the rematch with 10 points, and senior guard Carter Warstler added eight.
"I was (most proud) of the fact that the kids just kept playing," coach Warstler said. "We played hard and that's always been us. Play hard and guard has been our mantra since the day I walked in the door, and that's what the guys did. They did it all the way to the end. We got beat by a better group."
Carter Warstler led the Vikings in scoring (14.5), rebounding (5.7), assists (4.1) and steals (3.5), and was named first-team all-MSL-Ohio and second-team all-district.
Sophomore guard Tanner Compton averaged 9.7 points and was honorable mention all-league.
Reeves led the team in blocks, averaging 1.1 per game.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Vaughn Armour (forward), Daniel Farber (post player), Sonari Hart (guard), Brady Hess (guard), Jared Kass (forward), Robert Mills (forward) and Miles Walter (forward) and sophomores Carter James (guard) and Parker Logan (forward).
Academy went 4-8 in the MSL-Ohio to finish sixth behind co-champions Whitehall and Worthington Christian (9-3).