Whetstone Roundup: Braves wrestler Darric McClinton wraps up strong career at state
Whetstone senior wrestler Darric McClinton accomplished a chief goal when he made the Division I state tournament for the first time this season.
Competing at 145 pounds on March 13 at Hilliard Darby, McClinton lost his first state match 15-0 to Wadsworth’s Landon Hacker and then fell 13-3 to Strongsville’s Anthony Grecol to finish the season 19-3.
But McClinton said he was happy to finally qualify for the tournament and have the experience of competing at the state level.
“I was proud that I made it there, because I didn’t make it there for the last three years past,” he said. “I was happy I made it there, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results that happened.”
McClinton said his tough slate of opponents and a lingering shoulder injury from football season played a part in his state results.
However, the four-time City League champion still put together a state-qualifying season despite Whetstone losing valuable practice time and matches because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Columbus City Schools winter sports programs didn’t get the OK to begin practicing until mid-January.
“It was the determination that I had to get there, because I had never been to state and I always wanted to go,” said McClinton, who also helped the Braves capture the City championship.
McClinton became the first Whetstone wrestler to qualify for state since Justin Rodriguez at 120 in 2017, according to coach Tom Jones.
“That’s impressive on a regular year,” Jones said of McClinton’s season. “When he sets his mind to something, he usually accomplishes it.”
McClinton moved down to 145 from 152 this season because Jones thought it would suit his strengths. It worked out well, as McClinton secured a state berth when he finished second in the district tournament March 7 at Darby.
“Coach felt like it fit me, so I tested it out and it went that way,” he said. “I stayed with it and stuck with it.”
Abdourahman Sallah, a two-time City champion and two-time district qualifier who went 1-2 at district this year at 182, and Jake Winters (132, 9-9) were the other seniors on the roster.
The expected key returnees include freshman Damarion McClinton – Darric McClinton’s brother who went 9-9 at 120. Also expected to return are sophomores Antonio Morris (126, 9-3) and Paul Buterbaugh (152) – both City champions this season – freshmen Tyler Brown (113, 3-8) and Lucas Wood (220, 5-12), sophomore Anthony Wright (heavyweight, 9-9) and junior Aidan Wilichowski (138, 11-9).
Girls basketball team
Girls basketball coach Torrie Ruffin said her young team displayed notable improvement this season despite playing only 10 games.
The Braves finished 2-8, beating East 24-23 on Jan. 27 and International 32-30 on Feb. 22. They opted out of the Division I district tournament.
Whetstone featured a roster of three freshmen, three sophomores and a junior. The Braves were expected to learn and show progress, and Ruffin said they did that and more.
“The coaching staff only asked for athletes that wanted to work hard, learn and get better, and that is exactly what these ladies gave us,” Ruffin said. “The players got a better understanding and appreciation for the game as well as a genuine bond with a great group of ladies.
“They improved in all aspects of the game. With a majority of the players having very little experience playing basketball, they will need to build off of the fundamentals that they have learned.”
Sophomore guard Haley Harkins averaged a team-high 9.7 points, followed by freshman guard Caitlin Hines at 5.7 points.
Ruffin said she expects the entire roster of Harkins, Hines, junior center/forward Caylan Nixon, sophomore guard Elizabeth Swaray, sophomore forward/guard Larrica Goble, freshman forward/guard Ava Flowers and freshman forward Sophia Nelson to make key contributions next season.
•City League standings: Whetstone (170), Northland (156), Mifflin (128), Marion-Franklin (117), Briggs (115), South (72), East (55), Linden-McKinley (42), Centennial (40), West (30)
•Seniors lost: Darric McClinton, Abdourahman Sallah and Jake Winters
•Key returnees: Tyler Brown, Paul Buterbaugh, Damarion McClinton, Antonio Morris, Aidan Wilichowski and Anthony Wright
•Postseason: 10th (49) at sectional behind champion Upper Arlington (241), 23rd (23) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (228.5)