Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Wrestling team staying upbeat amid challenges

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Gavin Larrison, a returning Division I district qualifier, likely will compete at 120 pounds for Gahanna after going 14-14 at 106 last season. The Lions open Saturday, Dec. 19, in events at Columbus Academy and Worthington Kilbourne.

During a modified preseason, the Gahanna Lincoln wrestling team attempted to keep its athletes active and safe by splitting up its practices into two groups that would rotate days rather than having one large practice.

The fact that the Lions have high enough participation numbers to be forced to make that adjustment is one of the positives in what third-year coach Mike Flusche understands will be a season of modifications.

Gahanna isn’t sure how many tournaments it will be able to participate in and is planning to open its season by sending half of its team to Columbus Academy and the other half to Worthington Kilbourne on Saturday, Dec. 19.

“We’ve got a good group of freshmen and sophomores and our numbers are probably about the same, and we may even be up a kid or two,” Flusche said. “It’s just so tough to find meets right now.”

One of the goals in scheduling is the need to help senior Charles Williams get prepared for what he hopes will be another long postseason after he qualified for the Division I state tournament at 132 pounds last season.

Williams finished fourth at district a year ago to advance to state, but that event was postponed and later canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Williams finished 40-6.

While Williams projects to be at 138 or 145, senior Ricky Alli likely will be at 182 after going 2-2 at district at 170 to finish 39-13.

Sophomore Gavin Larrison, another returning district qualifier, likely will compete at 120 after finishing 14-14 at 106 last season.

Seniors Quran Burns (152) and Marcus Rogers (152) and sophomores Griffin Flusche (heavyweight) and Elijah Lee (160) also have returned after competing at sectional a year ago.

Coach Flusche has high expectations for freshman Javon Lewis, who likely will be at 160. His twin brother, freshman Jaden Lewis, should be at 170.

Other freshmen who should see action include Thomas Blasi (170/182), Lincoln Dauberman (106), Charlie Foster (132), Emily Leesburg (106), Anthony Judd (113), Ben Morris (heavyweight), Jay Pearson (113), Isaiah Tate (heavyweight) and Ben Thompson (126).

“I’m excited about my freshman class,” coach Flusche said.

Seniors Christian Mitchell (195) and Tim Steele (152), juniors Chandler Block (152/160), Noah Conley (152/160) and Lamond Rhodes (heavyweight) and sophomores Skylar Barr (152), Jaden Hammond (220), Ali Kaba (heavyweight), Gabe Powell (132/138) and Jordan Rogers (145/152) also are returnees.

Other newcomers include sophomores Lawson Hampton (160), Preston Olah (160) and Isaac Perkins (heavyweight) and freshmen Mike Coons (138) and Hayden Thompson (152).

Sophomore diver Jayden Wells returns to the Lions after placing 22nd in last season's Division I district meet. Gahanna is scheduled to open Saturday, Dec. 19, at Thomas Worthington.

Boys swimmers

to rely on seniors

Two of the qualifiers for the boys swimming and diving team at the Division I state meet last season, seniors McCord Riegler and Nathan Vogelgesang, have returned.

There are five seniors overall for the Lions, who are scheduled to open Saturday, Dec. 19, at Thomas Worthington.

Riegler is the son of coach Jeff Riegler, who is in his seventh season.

“(Our hopes are) to actually have a season,” coach Riegler said. “With so many seniors, it would be nice to have a great final season. This senior class is very special to me as my oldest son graduates and I’ve known many of his friends since they were very young. These kids have gone through so much, it would be nice to allow them to do something normal.”

McCord Riegler and Vogelgesang joined 2020 graduates Johnny Belli and Derek Yu on the 200-yard freestyle relay that placed 18th (1 minute, 28.22 seconds) at state last season. Belli also was 12th in the 50 free (21.3).

Seniors Caleb Gilger and Brandon Patrick, juniors Morgan Govekar, Michael Jolley and Ethan Krier and sophomore Noah Weber also were contributing swimmers last season.

Sophomore Jayden Wells returns in diving after placing 22nd (134.3 points) at district.

The roster also includes senior Nate Foster, juniors Matthew Jeter, Vincent Piccolantonio and Ryan Sherman, sophomores Preston Cooper and Nicholas Ritchey and freshmen Coleman Fisher, Eli Riegler, Josh Riegler and Blake Weisenberger.

The boys are defending OCC-Ohio Division champions.

“I feel like we’re trying to have a season and it will be more than half over before we may be permitted to have any meets,” coach Riegler said. “It’s very difficult to act like a team with the restrictions. A lot of the things we normally would do to create team bonding are not able to be done. We’ve been doing well with practice limitations, and everyone is healthy.”

Girls swimmers

return deep lineup

With no seniors on last year’s roster when it won the OCC-Ohio title, the girls swimming and diving team has 32 athletes competing.

Among an eight-member senior class is diver Ashleigh Provan, who was fourth at district (407.15) but was unable to compete at state because of illness.

“This team has some lofty expectations,” coach Riegler said. “We have a good mix of experienced athletes and newcomers. There will be a lot of competition for championship spots.”

The top returning swimmer is sophomore Marie Belli, who finished third in the 200 individual medley (2:03.09) and fifth in the 100 butterfly (55.41) at state.

Belli also joined juniors Eloise Fisher, Kendall Hitler and Sami Kiss on the 200 medley relay that was 15th (1:47.38) and juniors Gwyneth Payton and Reagan Reetz and sophomore Stella Brofford on the 400 free relay that finished 19th (3:36.62).

Also competing at state were Reetz in the 200 free (22nd, 1:55.91) and Hitler in the 200 IM (22nd, 2:09.89) and 100 fly (24th, 58.8).

Joining Provan as divers are sophomore Vicky Miller, who was 14th (307.2) at district, and sophomore Benita Alli, who was 17th (216.85).

The other seniors are Destiny Ishmael, Sami Jolley, Mackenzie Massmann, Addy Redman, Rylee Slisher, Eden Weber and Olivia Zeltman.

Others looking to contribute are juniors Abigail Basinger, Kiersten Marks, Danica Nelson and Brynn Weisenberger, sophomores Zoey Callander, Rylee Cole, Tatum Ebbeskotte, Caroline Kuiken, Margaret McGregor, Chayse Neese and Sofia Rivera and freshmen Addi McCusker, Mara Osei-Kuffour, Cambell Payton and Samantha York.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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SWIMMING & DIVING

Coach: Jeff Riegler, seventh season

Top athletes: Boys — Caleb Gilger, Morgan Govekar, Brandon Patrick, McCord Riegler, Nathan Vogelgesang, Noah Weber and Jayden Wells; Girls — Marie Belli, Stella Brofford, Eloise Fisher, Kendall Hitler, Sami Kiss, Gwyneth Payton, Ashleigh Provan and Reagan Reetz

Key losses: Boys — Johnny Belli, Darin Fields, Josh Handel and Derek Yu; Girls — None

2019-20 OCC-Ohio standings: Boys — Gahanna (484.5), Pickerington North (468), Reynoldsburg (284), Grove City (229), Pickerington Central (205.5), Lancaster (202); Girls — Gahanna (623), North (473), Lancaster (230), Reynoldsburg (197), Grove City (197), Central (129)

2020 postseason: Boys — Fifth at sectional, ninth at district, tied for 46th at state; Girls — Second at sectional, fourth at district, tied for 19th at state

WRESTLING

Coach: Mike Flusche, third season

Top athletes: Ricky Alli, Quran Burns, Griffin Flusche, Gavin Larrison, Marcus Rogers and Charles Williams

Key losses: Paulo Dragin and Mason Schumacher

2019-20 OCC-Ohio standings: Lancaster (5-0), North (4-1), Grove City (3-2), Central (2-3), Gahanna (1-4), Reynoldsburg (0-5)

2020 postseason: Seventh at sectional, tied for 26th at district