The decision Brady White made shortly before the postseason to drop to a lower weight class proved to be a beneficial one for the Watterson wrestling team.
The Eagles lost one of their top wrestlers, sophomore Danny Siegel at 160 pounds, to a season-ending injury late in the regular season, but the program remained strongest in the upper weight classes.
White competed most of the season at 182 and sometimes at 195 but elected to wrestle at 170 for the Division II sectional Feb. 28 and 29 at Licking Valley.
That opened an opportunity at 182 for junior Nick Youell, who placed fifth at sectional.
White, meanwhile, survived a loss in his opening match at 170 to become the program’s first district qualifier since its restart last winter after not fielding a team the previous two seasons.
“The next couple years we’ll have a lot more district qualifiers,” White said. “It was nice that I was able to start that tradition back up at Watterson.”
White followed up his third-place finish at sectional by going 1-2 at district at Wilmington as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
White opened district March 6 by beating Greenville’s Zane Mancillas 11-7 but lost to Franklin’s Gage Johnson, a state qualifier last season, 19-3 in his second match. Then on March 7, he lost to Eaton’s Logan Chapin 8-4 in the second round of the consolation bracket to finish 38-16.
Watterson’s previous district qualifiers were 2016 graduates Ben Kring and Karrington Norwood in the 2015-16 season.
The Eagles finished 10th (68 points) in the 22-team sectional behind champion and host Licking Valley (215) and finished 44th (2) at district behind champion St. Paris Graham (242) as 49 teams scored.
“We had a little bit of bad luck because Danny Siegel, our (160-pound wrestler), got hurt and Danny would have qualified (for district) as well, so losing him stunk,” coach Felix Catheline said. “We had about two weeks until the sectional and (White) came to me about dropping to 170 from 182. He was at 170 the week before the sectional and he was very responsible in how he got down to 170. He definitely had a good size advantage and wasn’t dehydrated.”
White opened sectional with an 8-5 loss to Beech-croft’s Ibrahim Camara but won three matches in the backdraw to qualify for district and then pinned Lakewood’s Robert Taylor in 2 minutes, 58 seconds to finish third.
White placed sixth at sectional last season.
“(Being at 170) was really mentally challenging for me,” White said. “I wasn’t in my zone and had been cutting all that weight. I haven’t been down there since last year so I was mentally fatigued, but my dad (Sean) and I had a talk (after the loss to Camara) that I still had a chance.
“It was all for the team. I knew Nick Youell had a better chance at 182 and Patrick Randall had been doing well at 220 but had dropped down to 195. We got two district alternates out of it, so it was the right decision.”
In addition to Youell, placing fifth at sectional were sophomores Leo Pavell (138) and Derek Caswell (heavyweight). Juniors Charlie McAdow (220) and Kervin Azor (160) and sophomore Randall (195) all went 1-2, junior Mark Sullivan (126) went 0-2 and junior Tyler Young (152) defaulted both of his matches.
Siegel finished the season 37-10, Youell went 34-16, Pavell finished 34-24 and Azor went 31-32, while Randall, McAdow and junior Matthew Johnson (220/heavyweight) all won double-digit matches.
“We’re still a year or two away as a team from making a postseason impact, but last year we had (four sixth-place finishers at sectional) and this year we had one district qualifier and three alternates,” Catheline said. “Next year, we’re going to be better. Of our eight eighth-graders, I expect at least five of them (to contribute). We had 17 kids total and no seniors.”
Future bright for girls basketball team
Girls basketball coach Tom Woodford was gushing about the performances of juniors Kilyn McGuff and Danielle Grim after the second-seeded Eagles’ 43-40 loss to fifth-seeded Pickerington Central in a Division I district final Feb. 29 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
“Kilyn and Dani, what they did for us … Dani in the second half was unbelievable,” Woodford said.
Next season, that duo should lead a program that earned its second consecutive district runner-up trophy this winter and should battle for a district championship again next season.
Watterson, which last won a district title in 2004, finished 23-3 overall for the second season in a row despite having only two seniors.
Senior guard Paige Woodford, who also helped the Eagles earn a district runner-up finish in 2017, is headed to Mercyhurst after averaging 8.6 points and making honorable mention all-district. The other senior was backup guard Emily Dixon.
“With the chemistry we had, they were some of my best friends,” Paige Woodford said. “I looked forward to practice every day. These are the people I was hanging with after basketball. Even when people were hurt, they were still bringing energy to practice and getting us a different viewpoint.”
Grim missed six games at midseason but scored 15 points in a 54-19 win over 33rd-seeded Hilliard Darby on Feb. 21 and averaged 8.5 points.
McGuff had 23 points in a 45-40 win over Worthington Kilbourne in a district semifinal Feb. 26 and scored 16 against Central. She averaged 14 points, doubling her average from a year ago, and made first-team all-district.
Junior guard Brynn Mulligan, sophomore guards Grace Cantwell and Camille Gregory and sophomore forwards Norah Dorley and Kiley Graham also played key roles.
Graham averaged seven points and Cantwell and Dorley both averaged four.
Junior forward Vini Paradiso, sophomore guard Tanya Eagle and sophomore forward Maddy Bellisari are others eligible to return.
Grim, McGuff and Paige Woodford were named first-team all-league and Cantwell and Graham both made the second team.
“We’re young,” coach Woodford said. “On this roster right here, we have six sophomores, four juniors and two seniors. They were such great teammates. It’s the greatest place to coach. These kids and their parents are awesome.”