Big Walnut wrestling coach Aaron Renner knew a large sophomore class was ready to take the next step this season.
However, he didn't anticipate how big that step would be.
The sophomores helped propel the Golden Eagles to their first league championship since 2008, as Big Walnut went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish ahead of Groveport (4-1), Canal Winchester (3-2), Newark (2-3), New Albany (1-4) and Franklin Heights (0-5).
In addition, two girls in the program -- senior Aliya Martin and junior Cali Lang -- reached the podium at the inaugural girls state tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Davidson. Martin was state runner-up at 137 pounds and Lang placed third at 106 as Big Walnut tied Jamestown Greeneview for 10th with 50 points, behind champion Casstown Miami East (149.5) as 83 teams scored.
The Golden Eagles finished fourth among central Ohio teams, behind runner-up Olentangy Orange (122.5), third-place Marysville (99.5) and ninth-place Delaware (51).
"To win the league and have 10 kids receive all-league honors and to have two girls place second and third at state, we had a lot of success," Renner said.
However, two seniors, Ryan Coletta and Max Lenz, had disappointing endings to their careers.
Coletta (152), a Division I district qualifier a year ago, missed the postseason with concussion-related symptoms, while Lenz (heavyweight) advanced to the state tournament for the first time, only to see the event be canceled March 26 by the OHSAA because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The state tournament, which had been scheduled for March 13-15 at Ohio State, initially was postponed March 12 by the OHSAA.
"It's heartbreaking for him and the coaches, too," said Renner, who was named OCC-Capital Coach of the Year. "And, it's like that everywhere. We weren't alone. You just wished they had the opportunity (to compete at state). Unfortunately, sometimes life isn't fair. You feel for all the seniors."
Lenz, who went 3-2 and placed third at the district tournament held March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby to qualify for state, finished the season at 28-3.
Three sophomores, Wyatt Lenz, Lawrence O'Malley and Andrew Parker, also qualified for district.
Parker went 3-3 and placed sixth at 106 to finish 36-12, while Wyatt Lenz (182, 30-18) and O'Malley (160, 18-17) both went 0-2.
O'Malley led Big Walnut in a sectional Feb. 29 at Upper Arlington, where he went 3-0 to finish first.
Sophomore Christian Takatch (170, 19-8) and freshman Vince Giordano (113, 30-13) both were district alternates after going 3-2 and placing fifth at sectional.
Earning first-team all-league honors for the Golden Eagles were Giordano, Max Lenz, Parker and Takatch. Coletta, Wyatt Lenz, O'Malley, senior Christian Jodrey (120, 18-15) and sophomore Austin O'Malley (195, 23-16) made second-team all-league and sophomore Carson Leasure (138, 11-19) was third-team all-league.