Big Walnut Roundup: Juniors ready to lead wrestling squad

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Christian Takatch (top) is one of the top returnees for Big Walnut and part of a strong junior class that expects to lead the Golden Eagles. Takatch was 19-8 last season at 220 pounds.

With three returning Division I district qualifiers, two district alternates and a girls state placer back in the lineup, the Big Walnut wrestling team has its sights set on bigger goals this season.

Third-year coach Aaron Renner has helped mold a strong class of juniors who helped the Golden Eagles capture their first league championship since 2008, as Big Walnut went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital Division last season.

“Much of the junior class is there, they’re ready, and so are some of our sophomores,” said Renner, whose team opened the season with a 36-33 loss to Utica on Dec. 5. “But, we’ve got some guys who’ve never wrestled before, and it’s going to take them some time. I told them, ‘It’s going to come, and you’ll get there.’ ”

The three returning district qualifiers from last season are juniors Andrew Parker (113 pounds, 36-12 overall), Lawrence O’Malley (152, 18-17) and Wyatt Lenz (182, 30-18).

Junior Christian Takatch (220, 19-8) and sophomore Vince Giordano (113, 30-13) both were district alternates after placing fifth at sectional.

“Vince is a machine,” Renner said. “He works out every day like he’s preparing for a competition, but that’s Vince, and we expect even better things from him this season.”

In addition, two girls in the program — 2020 graduate Aliya Martin and senior Cali Lang — reached the podium at the inaugural girls state tournament last season. Martin was runner-up at 137, and Lang placed third at 106 and will have a starting role in that weight class this season.

While many letterwinners return, one of them, junior Austin O’Malley (170, 23-16), is out for the season.

“He got hurt about three practices in,” Renner said. “And it hurts.”

Helping to fill the void is sophomore Justin Strickland (170). Sophomores Collin Gamble (195) and Avery Looney (heavyweight) will help fill out the upper weight classes.

Juniors Parker Williams, Zach Roberts and Nick DelGreco are vying for spots in the middle part of the lineup. First-year wrestler Micah Tillar, a junior, is at 160.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Renner said of Tillar. “We’re just trying to teach him how to wrestle.”

Big Walnut also must replace two other 2020 graduates in Ryan Coletta and Max Lenz after both had disappointing endings to their prep careers.

Coletta (152) missed the postseason with concussion-related symptoms, while Lenz (heavyweight) advanced to the state tournament for the first time only to see the event get postponed and later canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Bowling teams

have high hopes

Sixth-year bowling coach Scott Morrison took note of the boys team’s preparation over the summer in Saturday morning leagues.

Add to that a three-year starter and a highly skilled freshman, and Morrison can’t help but expect plenty of success.

“For the first time, I’m eight or nine deep,” Morrison said. “Other guys are young, and they’ve jumped right in. But I really think this group has a chance to go to states.”

The Golden Eagles were 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the COHSBC-A before competing Dec. 12 in the Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.

Leading the way through seven games was freshman Aidan Furukawa, who was averaging 218.3 pins per game.

Furukawa finished first in the Ohio High School State Invitational Kick-Off Tournament on Nov. 21 with a 714 series and a 280 high game. The Golden Eagles, who competed in the tournament for the first time, finished eighth (2,925) behind champion Centerville (3,255).

Furukawa is a humble leader and “second coach,” Morrison said.

“He has no problem jumping in and helping the guys if he sees something,” Morrison said. “It’s just a great fit.”

Big Walnut’s lone senior is three-year starter Braden Buchs, who was averaging 166.4 through seven games.

Juniors Tyler Lewis (178) and Logan Nash (169.8) also were among the team’s early leaders.

Four juniors are expected to lead the girls team in returning starters Grace Gillispe, Abi Larkin, Cassandra Sanders and Ashleigh Westervelt.

The Golden Eagles were 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the COHSBC-A before competing in the Holiday Baker Marathon.

Through six games, Sanders had a team-best 160.2 average, followed by Westervelt (148.5), Larkin (140.3) and Gillispe (138.3).

“All of their averages were way up from where they were last year,” Morrison said. “They’ve started undefeated, and I expect them to have a great year, too.”

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BOWLING

Coach: Scott Morrison, sixth season

Top athletes: Boys — Braden Buchs, Aidan Furukawa, Tyler Lewis and Logan Nash; Girls ― Grace Gillispe, Abi Larkin, Cassandra Sanders and Ashleigh Westervelt

Key losses: Boys — Bryan Mengel; Girls ― Lauren Thiergartner

Last season: Boys — 8-10 overall; Girls — 8-9 overall

2020 finishes: Boys ― Tied for sixth in COHSBC-A, tied for fourth in OCC-Buckeye, 33rd at sectional; Girls ― Tied for sixth in COHSBC-A, sixth in OCC-Buckeye, 28th at sectional

WRESTLING

Coach: Aaron Renner, third season

Top wrestlers: Vince Giordano, Cali Lang, Wyatt Lenz, Lawrence O’Malley, Andrew Parker and Christian Takatch

Key losses: Ryan Coletta, Christian Jodrey, Max Lenz and Austin O’Malley

2019-20 OCC-Capital standings: Big Walnut (5-0), Groveport (4-1), Canal Winchester (3-2), Newark (2-3), New Albany (1-4), Franklin Heights (0-5)

2020 postseason: 10th at sectional, 21st at district