Columbus Academy Roundup: Wrestling team's Gyvnn Mendenhall aiming for another state berth
After being denied the opportunity to compete in the Division III state tournament a season ago, it didn’t take Columbus Academy wrestler Gyvnn Mendenhall long to focus on earning another berth.
The junior qualified for state at 195 pounds, but the tournament was postponed and later canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I think about it sometimes, but I can’t really change anything,” Mendenhall said. “As long as I can make it again and control what I can control, I’ll be fine. I just want to make it there again and do a little better each year. I just have to keep going.”
Coming off a strong football season as a lineman for the Vikings, Mendenhall is expected to compete at 220. He was 41-5 after finishing second at district last season and was looking to become the program’s first state placer since 2003 when Scott Smith won the title at 189.
Mendenhall was Academy’s first state qualifier since 2018, when Josh Pearson went 1-2 at 220.
“I’m extremely fortunate,” said Mendenhall, who is 64-11 for his career. “Even injury-wise, I haven’t been injured, which is great.”
Coach Paul Bukky expects another solid season from Mendenhall.
“Gyvnn is off the charts,” Bukky said. “He wants to get back to state. He’s twice as strong. He could be a little quicker, but he’s not slow. He’ll probably be quicker than most of those guys (at 220).”
Sophomore Tiko Bdoyan, who was a district alternate last season at 132 and finished 30-5, should compete at 138.
Also back are seniors Chris Sugar (145, 30-13 last season) and Ethan Stahl (182/195, 23-17) and junior Chase Chavarria (220/heavyweight).
Senior Keir Gorospe (145/152) returns after missing time last season with an elbow injury.
The roster also includes freshmen Charlie Brigdon (126/132), Parker Knapp (120/126), Philip Nedeltchev (170), Dominic Penney (132/138), James Phieffer (138/145), Mitchell Rogers (195/220) and Nicholas Yakam (138/145).
“I’m excited for the season and the kids are excited about it,” said Bukky, who is in his 15th season. “The practices that we’ve had have been excellent. The kids are responding well. We have quite a few freshmen.”
The start of the season was delayed by the pandemic, with the Vikings scheduled to compete Saturday, Dec. 19, at home against Big Walnut and Gahanna.
Because of the pandemic, the MSL-Ohio Division will not hold a league tournament. Teams will instead follow a dual-meet schedule, with matches starting in January.
Swim teams look for
Swimming and diving coach Craig Yakscoe is optimistic that his program will again enjoy positive results.
“The kids are working hard,” Yakscoe said. “The kids who are returning are a little more motivated, a little more excited and are showing improvement from last season, so I’m pretty excited to see what we can put into the pool. We’ll work hard during the season and see who we can get through to the district meet and, knock on wood, the state meet.”
The girls team should be led by three underclassmen who competed in the Division II state meet last season.
Juniors Alexandria Butnariu (freestyle), Lauren Klinefelter (backstroke, butterfly, individual medley) and Mary Kate Prall (IM, back) were part of the seventh-place 400-yard free relay (3 minutes, 41.1 seconds), and Klinefelter was a member of the 11th-place 200 medley relay (1:52.51).
Klinefelter also was 14th in the 100 fly (58.24) and 19th in the 200 IM (2:13.3).
Returning this winter is junior diver Blake Skilken, who studied overseas and missed last season.
The roster also includes juniors Hannah Bajaj (free), Julia DeVore (free, IM), Talia Lopresti (free) and Emma Yakam (breaststroke, free), sophomores Florence Lin (breast, free), Claire Richardson (sprint free) and Nicole Young (breast, free) and freshmen Charlotte Baker (back, free), Rene Fleege (breast, free), Camille Hannallah (free), Sofia Lott (diving), Ella Lowrie (breast, free), Lauren Prall (breast, free) and Samantha Whitson (back, free).
After seeing its run of district titles end at four, the boys team will look to begin a new streak this season.
A key returnee is sophomore Luke Boltz (distance free), who finished sixth in the 500 free (5:18.01) at district.
Boltz, junior Cyrus Richardson (distance free) and sophomore Gavin Lewis (50, 100 free) were part of the sixth-place 400 free relay (3:30.45).
Rowan Hennessy (IM, free) is the only senior in the program. Other swimmers are juniors Drake Bellisari (50, 100 free), Cyrus Hannallah (breast, sprint free), Max Popp (breast, sprint free) and Raaghuv Vazirani (free), sophomores Alek Balaloski (fly, 100 free), Jonathon Hammond (distance free) and Alex Nanda (free) and freshmen Dorian Bristol (50 free), William Harpster (sprint free), Michael Raimondo (free) and Greyson Thomas (free).
“We’re moving forward,” said Yakscoe, who is in his 16th season. “We’re putting in different protocols for our meets and our practices. We talk about it quite a bit.”
SWIMMING & DIVING
•Coach: Craig Yakscoe, 16th season
•Top athletes: Boys — Cyrus Hannallah, Rowan Hennessy and Cyrus Richardson; Girls — Alexandra Butnariu, Lauren Klinefelter, Mary Kate Prall and Blake Skilken
•Key losses: Boys — James Cao and Ezra Johnson; Girls — Annalise Grammel, Whitney Hannallah, Riley Hennessy, Rachel Raque, Taylor Warren and Abby Yakam
•2019-20 MSL standings: Columbus Academy (238), Bexley (201), Wellington (175), Buckeye Valley (150), Grandview (111), Teays Valley (83), Bloom-Carroll (59), Logan Elm (50), Liberty Union (41), Fairfield Union (32), Worthington Christian (30), Zanesville Rosecrans (20), Hamilton Township (5); Girls — Columbus School for Girls (393), Academy (224), Grandview (158), Bexley (123), Liberty Union (102), Fairfield Christian (88), Wellington (66), Worthington Christian (59), Fairfield Union (50), Teays Valley (35), Buckeye Valley (33), Bloom-Carroll (24), Logan Elm (17), Grove City Christian and Circleville (4)
•2020 postseason: Boys — Second at sectional, tied for sixth at district; Girls — Second at sectional, third at district, 18th at state
•Coach: Paul Bukky, 15th season
•Top athletes: Keir Gorospe, Gyvnn Mendenhall, Ethan Stahl and Chris Sugar
•Key loss: Sam Lichten
•2019-20 MSL-Ohio standings: Buckeye Valley (83), Bexley (82), Whitehall (70), Academy (35), Grandview (23)
•2020 postseason: 15th at sectional, tied for 22nd at district