Delaware Hayes Roundup: Pacers girls wrestling squad primed for postseason
The Delaware Hayes girls wrestling team has experienced significant growth in its second season and is ready to make its first district tournament appearance Feb. 14 at Olentangy Orange.
“It was a tough year to get things started and going, but the girls’ effort daily has been nothing short of amazing,” co-coach Josh Lamb said. “It has been such a nice, refreshing feeling. These girls have just been nothing but fantastic when it comes to coming in, wanting to learn, wanting to work hard, asking a ton of questions.
“Really it’s been a great breath of fresh air for the program and me personally as a coach. And I think I speak for (co-coach) Kevin (Rieman) when we both kind of said, ‘You know what, this really helped rejuvenate me.’ ”
The team has 22 girls on the roster, up from six a year ago. Two-year veteran Kelcey Dew (121 pounds) is leading the Pacers with an 11-3 record, but Lamb said several athletes have made positive impressions.
Lamb said Meredith Milligan (126, 2-3) has made substantial progress since coming out last season as a freshman.
“The growth she’s made in a year has been outstanding,” Lamb said. “She came in as someone that struggled when I would try to talk to her at practice. She was very unsure of herself. Now she gets in there and she’s really vocal at practice, and her entire attitude and demeanor has completely changed.”
Aubrey Griner (137, 6-5) also has impressed in her first season on the team.
“She’s been an absolute stud,” Lamb said. “I’ve been blown away by her athleticism and her work ethic. She has shown considerable growth. Every single day she leaves that room she gets better.”
Other standouts include first-year wrestlers Molly Wells (116, 7-5) and Carmen Pape (170, 8-6).
“At the start of the season some of our girls could not even do a cartwheel,” Dew said. “Now our girls are lifting their opponents and getting stronger.”
Dew also led the way last season as a freshman, finishing third at 121 in the inaugural girls state tournament. She joined the Pacers with previous wrestling experience.
“She’s kind of been the catalyst to all of this,” Lamb said. “She came in as a freshman. She was super excited to be coming up to the high school. We knew she was pretty good, but she was really wanting other girls to do it. She didn’t want to be the only girl.”
After the six girls on last year’s team started to show potential, Lamb said he and Rieman began to think they might have something special on their hands.
“About halfway through that season last year I said, ‘Listen this could be a big thing here,’ ” Lamb said. “In year two, we’re coming out of this pandemic and I told Kevin, ‘If we’re going to do this, if girls wrestling is going to become a big deal, then I want to be out in front of it. I don’t want to be waiting around saying ‘Marysville was one of the first to do it and Orange, so let's catch up.’ So we started recruiting girls.”
Lamb and Rieman started going to practices for other teams to see if anyone would be interested in joining the program.
“We went out to soccer practice, we went to volleyball practice, we went to cheerleading practice, we went to cross country practice and we just went to all these sports teams and I told the girls, 'If you’re a really good athlete and you think you’re tough, and you want to prove and see how tough you really are, this could be the sport for you,’ ” Lamb said. “Whatever you do in your real season, one year of wrestling is going to make you better at it.”
Their efforts were successful, as participation on the girls team more than tripled this season.
Now, the Pacers will have a chance to test how far they’ve come at district. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Hilliard Davidson.
There was no district tournament in girls wrestling last season.
“Our girls are ready. We have been training for this moment and we are ready to fight to the end,” Dew said. “We are all so excited to be able to wrestle this year and honored to have a season.”
set for postseason
After fitting in a higher frequency of regular-season matches in less time because of their delayed start, the boys and girls bowling teams are now set for the Division I postseason.
The girls, who finished 15th at state last season, compete in a sectional Feb. 17 at HP Lanes, while the boys compete in a sectional Feb. 20 at the same site. From the boys and girls sectionals, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.
“You go through phases. You go through where they want to compete, but now we’re so heavy on match play that they don’t even have time to work on things we need to work on,” coach Darin Halstead said. “When you’re doing three, four matches a week, I’ve even heard a couple of them say, ‘I’m just tired of bowling.’ We’re trying to put so many matches into such a small period of time, it’s just difficult across the board for everybody.”
Halstead hopes both teams are ready for the postseason.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “Every match we just keep working on stuff. We have moments where everyone’s firing great and we have moments that we’re making little mistakes.”
On the boys side, C.J. Deel and Carson Holt were leading the team in average at 179.6 and 179.2, respectively, entering play Feb. 9. Brandon Thomas wasn’t far behind at 178.3.
“I see these guys performing well in the next couple of weeks,” Halstead said.
For the girls, Hannah Halstead was leading at 193.9, followed by Makayla Pounds at 176.5 and Grace Mclllwain at 152.3.
“They’re kind of in the same boat (as the boys),” coach Halstead said. “I think Hannah, Makayla, Grace and Electra (Holt) are all pretty close to finding their stride.”