Notebook: Bexley Lions wrestlers driven by death of former teammate Jeremiah Clinton

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Bexley's Muhammad Jallaq, top, works against Grandview's Owen Billeter in a 170-pound match Jan 14. Jallaq was one of seven Lions wrestlers to win by pin in the 42-36 victory.

The members of the Bexley wrestling team have been dealing with loss every time they have stepped onto the mat this season. 

The Lions hope to receive a bit of closure Jan. 28 during a ceremony for a former teammate, Jeremiah Clinton, a junior who died of a gunshot wound Dec. 11. 

Clinton wrestled at 132 pounds last season and was a member of the football program before moving to Columbus this fall. The wrestling program will honor Clinton with a ceremony before the match with London. 

“Things are still in the works,” coach Chris Bragg said Jan. 20. “I likely will read something, probably from his service, we will have a picture of him that the kids will sign for his mother and we might have a video of his highlight pictures playing on a big screen. 

“I get emotional just thinking about it because I was close to him for the couple of years he was on the team and he lived right behind me. He was a funny kid with a good smile. No kid or program should have to go through something like this. It’s really tough.” 

Porter Neff, who competes at 160, was a practice partner with Clinton over the last couple of seasons. Clinton was runner-up at 132 in the MSL-Ohio duals last season.

“For me, it has a big impact because he was my wrestling partner,” Neff said. “He motivated me because we would challenge each other back and forth. 

“I told the team after it happened that we needed to motivate each other in the same way. I know for a fact that he’s looking down on us right now, and he’s telling us we need to keep going.” 

The Lions were 1-1 in the league after defeating host Grandview 42-36 on Jan. 14. They also lost to Whitehall 54-27 on Jan. 6. 

Neff won by pin in 3 minutes, 26 seconds against the Bobcats, who won six weights by forfeit. 

“It always feels good to go up against a different school,” Neff said. “You get tired of going up against the same guys over and over in practice. You always see the same stuff so it’s good to go out against someone new. 

“We have a small team, and we’ve kept focused by motivating each other. (A smaller team) makes it easier because we can focus on our own goals, but it’s harder to fill all of the weights.” 

Isaac Bonowitz (195 pounds), Alex Faulkner (152), Muhammad Jallaq (170), Ezra Kerns (182), Zeke Poulos (145) and Taran Rai (120) also won by pin against Grandview. 

“I’m happy for the kids,” Bragg said. "They’ve been through a lot with the loss of a fellow wrestler. I think this has made them closer. They’ve worked really hard. 

“We have a small group but we have some good wrestlers who are working their butts off. One day they could get to the podium (at state)." 

•Geoff Gear has stepped down as coach of the St. Charles swimming and diving program. He was in his 12th season, having taken over before the 2009-10 season. 

“Geoff resigned,” athletics director David Lawler said Jan. 15. “He thought it was best for his kids and his family to resign. It was his decision to resign (during the season).” 

Assistant coach Kyle Goodrich will take over the program. The 1995 St. Charles graduate was head coach for eight seasons until 2009, guiding the Cardinals to a state title in 2008. 

Under Gear, St. Charles won CCL titles in his first 11 seasons. The league meet this season is scheduled for Jan 30 at home.  

The Cardinals also won five Division I district championships and had six top-10 finishes at state, including placing third in 2016 and 2017 and fourth in 2010.  

Gear also will not return to lead the water polo program, which had its season moved from the fall to the spring because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

In Gear’s 13 seasons, the water polo team won six state championships (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019). The Cardinals also were runners-up in 2016 and 2017. 

•The Bexley girls basketball team looks to stay in the MSL-Ohio race after losing its first league contest to host Worthington Christian 59-41 on Jan. 13. 

The Lions were 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Columbus School for Girls on Jan. 22. 

Maddy Young led Bexley with 13 points and Mikayla Williams had seven. 

“We learned some things that will hopefully make us a better team,” coach Brycen Baugh said. “We have to learn from our mistakes.” 

Through eight games, Maddy Young was averaging a team-best 12.0 points to go along with 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals. Grace Heilman was averaging 8.5 points and 1.8 assists and a team-high 2.8 steals, and Sydnie Smith led the Lions with 6.1 rebounds. 

Bexley is scheduled to begin MSL-Ohio tournament play Jan. 30 with the pairings to be determined. 

•The CSG basketball team had lost three consecutive games before defeating Wellington 50-12 on Jan. 19 in MSL-Ohio play. 

The Unicorns were 2-4 and 1-3 before facing Buckeye Valley on Jan. 21. 

They are playing without point guard Lauren Sloan, who broke three fingers in a 41-19 league loss to Whitehall on Jan. 13. 

CSG’s first game without Sloan was a 39-32 conference loss to Columbus Academy on Jan. 16. 

“We started the game a little nervous and jittery,” coach Rebecca Bailey said. “First, it was against Academy, which is a big rivalry game. Also, we were playing without our point guard, so we had a different starting lineup and moved players around. Without Lauren, we had Emma Spangler and Carmen Albrecht sharing those duties. 

“We’re still building some team chemistry. Regardless of the score, the girls have given me all that they have.” 

Spangler scored 12 points with two 3-pointers against the Vikings, and Eva Nicolosi added nine points. 

CSG also is scheduled to begin MSL-Ohio tournament play Jan. 30. 

•The CSG swimming and diving team went head-to-head Jan. 16 with one of the state’s top Division I programs in Upper Arlington. 

The Division II Unicorns were runner-up (71 points) to UA (98), while Ironton had one point. 

Nyah Funderburke won the 100-yard backstroke (58.2 seconds) and 100 butterfly (58.22), and Ava Fortney was first in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.36). 

The two seniors joined Bethany Spangler and Olivia Morse on two winning relays – the 200 medley (1:49.31) and the 400 free (3:45.67). 

The Unicorns are the host team for the MSL girls meet Jan. 30. CSG won its seventh consecutive league title last season with 393 points ahead of runner-up Academy (224). 

•The St. Charles hockey team went 1-2 against some of the top teams in the state in the Cleveland St. Ignatius Father Styles Showcase on Jan. 16 and 17 at Brooklyn Recreation Center. 

The Cardinals lost 5-1 to fourth-ranked St. Ignatius and 7-0 to top-ranked St. Edward on Jan. 16 before a 4-3 win Jan. 17 over sixth-ranked Hunting Valley University School. 

Myles McKinney had two goals and an assist in the three games for the Cardinals, who were 6-4-1 overall and 4-1-1 (9 points) in the CHC-Red before playing eighth-ranked UA on Jan. 22. Nicholas Scharfenberger scored his first varsity goal and Alex Jimenez and Sam Mickey also scored. 

St. Charles is scheduled to play CHC games against Cincinnati Moeller on Jan. 29, Dublin Jerome on Jan. 30 and Cincinnati St. Xavier on Jan. 31.

shennen@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekHennen