Whetstone Roundup: Braves wrestlers catching up after delayed start

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Whetstone's Darric McClinton tangles with Thomas Worthington's Majed Ahmad on Jan. 28 at Bexley. McClinton, a three-time City League champion, won his first four matches this season.

Its season delayed by Columbus City Schools until mid-January because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Whetstone wrestling team hopes to make the most of the time it has left this winter.

The Braves began practicing Jan. 15 – the day the school district’s practice suspension expired – and found themselves in competition 12 days later in a tri-match with Watterson and Newark Catholic. The next day, the Braves faced off against Thomas Worthington and Bexley.

Whetstone hadn’t won a match heading into a dual Feb. 4 at Centennial, but coach Tom Jones said the team would take advantage of its shortened season. 

“The young ones, I hope they get experience,” he said. “And in all honesty, with our numbers and looking around the (City) League, we could win it.” 

The Braves have 11 weight classes filled this year. The roster is led by senior Darric McClinton (145/152 pounds), a three-time City champion who was 4-0 heading into the dual with the Stars. 

“With Darric, I hope he gets his fourth City title,” Jones said. “There’s never been a four-time league champion in the Columbus City League.” 

Senior Sallah Abdulrahman (182/195), a district qualifier and City champion last season, started the season 4-0 with four pins. 

“I don't think he's been out of the first period yet,” Jones said. 

Sophomore Anthony Wright (heavyweight) also started 4-0. Junior Aidan Wilichowski (126/132) was 3-1, and sophomore Paul Buterbaugh (145/152) and freshman Lucas Wood (220) were 2-2. 

Jones said the Braves had to quickly get back into wrestling shape upon returning to practice. 

“We had to brush up on everything,” he said. “Some guys have been doing it for a couple years and it’s coming back 10 times faster than with the new guys, but we’re getting there.” 

Despite limited practice and conditioning, Jones said the Braves have carried themselves well and have held their own since returning to competition. 

“We’ve got some guys that are still waiting on their first win, but other guys that aren’t,” Jones said before the Centennial dual. “The other thing is we haven’t seen any City teams (up until that point). All the teams we’ve faced, they’ve been wrestling all year.” 

Whetstone was scheduled to face Mifflin and Briggs on Feb. 6. The league tournament is scheduled for Feb. 12 and 13 at a location to be determined, Jones said. 

Zach Casto is one of the top players this season for Whetstone and coach Dean Washington.

Boys basketball team

out to slow start 

Coach Dean Washington said the boys basketball team is in a similar position to opponents around the City as it tries to find its footing after returning to practice Jan. 15 and beginning competition a short time later. 

But the Braves also had to deal with their own set of circumstances after being shut down because of illness just a day after opening with an 84-43 loss to Northland on Jan. 25. 

The Braves returned to action Feb. 3 and lost 114-40 to Beechcroft. Washington said the team is not close to being in basketball shape, but feels fortunate for the opportunity to play. 

“It’s one of those things where the pandemic has hurt everybody,” he said. “The kids get an opportunity to play, they have a season, and that’s all you can ask for. We’ll kind of go from there.” 

The Braves’ key players include Caleb Brigle, Alex Hurd, Zach Casto, Shaiman Diawara, Josh Lacy and Joe Lacy. 

Brigle scored 15 points against Northland and Joe Lacy had eight. 

No matter what happens this season, Washington hopes his players enjoy the competition. 

“The thing about athletics is I hope they just have a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m hoping they at least appreciate the fact that no matter the outcome, they’ll enjoy having an opportunity to compete and get out on the floor.” 

He also hopes this season provides an opportunity for the Braves’ freshmen to gain valuable experience. The class features Diawara, Joe and Josh Lacy and Gabe Clark. 

“We’re trying to build at Whetstone. We have not been a power in the City League,” he said. “We think we have a promising group of freshmen, so we’re trying to take that group and build with them.” 

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve