Notebook: Groveport Madison Cruisers' Jake Nelson rides new approach to state

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Groveport's Sha'Ron Whatley, who was honorable mention all-league, was one of seven seniors for the Cruisers, who finished 3-12.

Jake Nelson entered the Division I state tournament with 14 wins in as many matches this season, compared to 45 a year ago when he qualified for the first time. 

While the Groveport Madison senior wrestler did not say he felt fresher after a limited schedule brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – which also caused the cancellation of last year’s state tournament – Nelson said a modified diet played a large part in his winning sectional and district championships at 220 pounds. 

“I’ve been eating and drinking the right things, especially not having as many matches as normal, and staying in shape the best I can. That’s been harder with fewer matches, but you have to stay in shape in any case,” said Nelson, who as a junior went 45-3 and became the Cruisers’ first state qualifier since 2014.  

“I cut out pop and fast food (early this season). It’s hard to cut that stuff out. I like that stuff, but you just have to do what you have to do sometimes. I noticed a huge difference. It makes your body feel a lot better when you’re wrestling if you have the right fuel in there and are staying hydrated. Fast food is just bad fuel for your body.” 

Nelson went 7-0 in the regular season, 3-0 in a sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial and 4-0 at district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, including a 5-2 win over Olentangy Liberty’s Dylan Russo in the final. Russo was ranked fourth and Nelson fifth statewide by BoroFanOhio.net to end the regular season. 

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state March 13 and 14 at Darby. 

Nelson’s 26 points put the Cruisers 21st at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (224.5) as 40 teams scored. 

“He knows his body. He knows his style. He’s on a last ride here,” Groveport assistant coach Jacob Schultz said. “He’s giving us a ride and an experience. It’s astronomically huge to have this experience. I can’t thank Jake enough for accepting us as a first-year staff, listening to all the small things, the details. We’ve stuck with the game plan.” 

Canal Winchester sophomore wrestler Bobby Davies went 0-2 in the district tournament to finish 15-9, tying senior Cian Rose (138) and sophomore Mason Fry (heavyweight) for the team lead in wins. 

Davies, who was making his first district appearance, lost 15-4 to Westerville South’s David Javier-Ozuna in the first round and was pinned by Newark’s Jibreel Smith in 1 minute, 56 seconds in a consolation match. Davies had finished third in a sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial. 

“(Davies) wrestled a lot of good wrestlers this year, so I definitely think that helped him prepare for the postseason. That’s why he had a good showing at the sectional,” coach Harrison Rosch said. “He’s still growing and working on putting a whole match together. It was a great experience for him to go out and get some motivation going into the offseason and next year.” 

Rose went 15-6 and Fry was 15-7 to lead the Indians, who have 10 of their 13 postseason competitors eligible to return. Freshman Eli Cassady went 14-11 at 145 and classmate Micah Dollery was 12-9 at 120, earning a sixth-place finish at sectional. 

Junior Ethan McGlone placed sixth at sectional at 152 and finished 11-8. 

•Second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division and honorable mention all-district selection Casey Humphrey is one of seven players graduating from the Groveport girls basketball team, which went 3-12 and had its season cut short by a late COVID-19 quarantine. 

A three-year starting guard, Humphrey averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 steals to pace the Cruisers, who also went 2-6 in the league to finish fifth behind eventual regional champion Newark (10-0). Humphrey had four games of 20 points or more, including a career-high 28 on Jan. 25 in a 61-49 loss to Watkins Memorial, which at the time was ranked 10th in the state in Division I. 

Groveport’s final game was Feb. 5 against Pickerington Central. The Cruisers entered quarantine the next day and had to forfeit their scheduled Division I district tournament second-round game Feb. 19 at Westerville North. 

“All facets across the program, most importantly the culture, made huge strides this season in the right direction,” first-year coach Zach Cowan said. “The players believe in the winning culture we’re trying to build and are continuing to be great advocates of the academic and athletic expectations we have in our program from the middle school to the high school. 

“Our seven seniors did a great job leading our team during this chaotic season. They came into the season with a new coach and uncertain times with COVID and quickly took over the leadership roles and adjusted to the changes.” 

Senior forward Sha’Ron Whatley was named honorable mention all-league. 

Players eligible to return include junior Alauna Nguyen (guard), sophomore Tyairah Flowers (guard/forward) and freshmen Milani Epps (guard) and Carmyn Woods (forward). 

Groveport boys soccer coach Tyler Gleason was named coach at his alma mater, Grove City, on March 8. 

Gleason coached the Cruisers the past two seasons, going 18-15-2 and leading the team to the OCC-Capital title – the program’s first league championship – in 2019. 

“I really debated on whether I was going to take the job because I’d created some pretty close relationships with players at Groveport,” said Gleason, a 2007 graduate of Grove City who played soccer at Ohio Dominican and coached at Central Crossing from 2013-17. “It was a really tough conversation to have. You almost feel like you’re abandoning them. I really had a close connection with a lot of the kids, so it was a really tough decision, but this job doesn’t come open very often.” 

Gerald Holton, who was the Cruisers’ junior varsity coach last year and middle school coach from 2015-19, was hired as Gleason’s successor in mid-February. 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

CANAL WINCHESTER WRESTLING 

•OCC-Capital standings: Westerville North (7-0), Delaware (6-1), Big Walnut (3-2), Canal Winchester (4-3), Dublin Scioto and Westerville South (both 2-3), Worthington Kilbourne (1-6), Franklin Heights (0-7) 

•Seniors lost: Trent Morningstar, Chase Newsome, Cian Rose and Jordan Williams 

•Key returnees: Eli Cassady, Bobby Davies, Micah Dollery, Mason Fry and Ethan McGlone 

•Postseason: Ninth (55) at sectional behind champion Westerville North (275), did not score at district 

GROVEPORT MADISON GIRLS BASKETBALL 

•Record: 3-12 overall 

•OCC-Buckeye standings: Newark (10-0), Reynoldsburg (7-2), Pickerington Central (4-3), Lancaster (3-6), Groveport (2-6), Central Crossing (0-9) 

•Seniors lost: Sey Ba, Monique Davis, Casey Humphrey, Skyiah Johnson, Amara Towns, Sha’Ron Whatley and Danasha Winfield 

•Key returnees: Milani Epps, Tyairah Flowers, Alauna Nguyen and Carmyn Woods 

•Postseason: None