Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions' Charles Williams aims for big finish on mat
A three-time Division I district qualifier for the Gahanna Lincoln wrestling team, senior Charles Williams showed long ago that he had the technical skills to be one of the state’s best.
Taking one look at the sculpted abs and arms of the senior who competes at 145 pounds is proof that he took the physical necessities of the sport seriously during the offseason, which was shaped by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the safety protocols and lack of offseason competition available in such a high-contact sport, Williams was forced to get creative in his desire to stay in shape before practices began Nov. 13.
“I barely got practices in and there were no live competitions at all until October,” he said. “I ran a lot on my treadmill downstairs and I lifted a lot in my basement, just staying active the whole time. I've definitely been staying in shape, running miles.”
Williams, who sometimes worked in the offseason with his older brothers, including one who weighs about 170, hasn’t looked out of sorts during a late-starting 2020-21 season.
The Lions had their OCC-Ohio Division opener Jan. 7 against Westland postponed and rescheduled for Feb. 17, which is the week before Division I sectional competition is set to begin. Gahanna was quarantined early in January.
After losing 39-36 to New Albany on Jan. 14 at home in its league opener, Gahanna was 3-4 overall.
“It’s very distracting having to practice half and half,” coach Mike Flusche said. “We’re really young and (not having) the ability (to practice regularly) is very frustrating.
“(Williams) looks really good. He’s kind of picked up where he left off last year, so I’m proud of him. He’s taken a little more of a leadership role. He’s more vocal and doing a better job in the room, leading by example.”
Williams was among the wrestlers who won against New Albany, as the Lions also picked up three forfeit wins to keep the match close. Others who won for the Lions were seniors Ricky Alli (182) and Marcus Rogers (160) and junior Chandler Block (152).
Williams went 23-6 and was a district qualifier at 106 as a freshman. He then improved to 24-10, including going 2-2 at district at 120, as a sophomore.
Last winter, Williams followed a sectional championship at 132 by placing fourth at district to qualify for state for the first time. The tournament was postponed and later canceled because of the pandemic.
Williams went 40-6 a year ago and entered this season at 87-22. He then won seven of his first eight matches.
After growing up in Columbus, Williams’ family moved to Gahanna when he was in middle school, and he joined the wrestling program in seventh grade.
“So far, it’s been going pretty well,” Williams said. “I can’t complain. We had to take a week break because of COVID, but besides that it’s been pretty smooth. We were quarantined and missed two meets that week. We’re just excited to be here.
“I’ve just been focusing on really scoring points on everybody and keep scoring as much as I can. I can beat most of these kids by hanging in there, but I need to beat them by a lot. Even if it’s not a tough match I need to keep going hard.”
Although there won't be an OCC-Ohio meet, the boys and girls swimming and diving teams will have a pair of tune-up events before the postseason when they compete Jan. 29 against Westerville North at Westerville Community Center and Jan. 30 at Upper Arlington.
“Luckily we’ve been able to swim,” coach Jeff Riegler said. “We aren’t a sport where you can just show up. We’re there (practicing) four days a week. Last year we got to finish our season. Just not having some of these other meets makes it difficult, but I’m still rotating kids through events. We’re going to have to figure out what our relays are going to be. I think we’ll have enough meets to figure that out, but it’s not ideal. You have kids fighting for relay spots.”
According to Riegler, there are more than half a dozen girls who could compete on postseason relays.
In addition to sophomore Marie Belli, who finished third in the 200-yard individual medley, fifth in the 100 butterfly and swam on two relays in the Division I state meet last year, juniors Eloise Fisher, Kendall Hitler, Sami Kiss, Gwyneth Payton and Reagan Reetz, sophomore Stella Brofford and freshman Cambell Payton are battling to be on relays.
“There’s a lot of competition,” Riegler said. “It’s nice to have, but it’s going to be hard to sort it out at the end.”
Seniors McCord Riegler and Nathan Vogelgesang have been leading the boys team.
McCord Riegler, who is coach Riegler’s son, had been splitting time between club volleyball and swimming before deciding to focus on swimming because of scheduling conflicts.
He and Vogelgesang swam on the 200 freestyle relay that competed at state last season.
Seniors Caleb Gilger and Brandon Patrick and junior Morgan Govekar are other top boys swimmers.
Juniors Michael Jolley and Ethan Krier, freshman Eli Riegler, who is another of coach Riegler’s sons, and freshman Josh Riegler, who is coach Riegler’s nephew, also are looking to fill relay spots.
“Nathan Vogelgesang has done really well,” coach Riegler said. “The boys aren’t as deep as the girls team.”
team hits stride
After losing its first three games, the girls basketball team beat Westerville Central 71-26 on Jan. 19 for its seventh consecutive victory.
The Lions beat Westerville South 63-56 on Jan. 18 in the Westerville Martin Luther King Classic at Westerville North as sophomore guard Laila Marshall had 27 points, junior forward Bella Ward scored 15 and sophomore guard Clarke Jackson added 11.
Against Central, Ward had 16 points and freshman guard Kya Jordan added 14.
Senior forward Naomi Johnson, senior guard Cece Carter, junior guards Juju Grubich and Keeley Wright, sophomore forward Emily Marzetz and freshman guard Aaliyah Younger have been other key players.
The Division I district tournament drawing is Jan. 31 and the postseason is set to start Feb. 16.