Columbus Academy Roundup: Vikings wrestler Gyvnn Mendenhall ready to make push for state

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Columbus Academy's Gyvnn Mendenhall prepares to pin Whitehall’s Noah Church in a heavyweight match Feb. 17. The Vikings defeated the host Rams 37-33. Mendenhall will compete at 220 pounds or heavyweight in the postseason and hopes to earn a second berth to the state tournament.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has hindered the wrestling career of Columbus Academy junior Gyvnn Mendenhall. 

It cost him the chance to compete in the Division III state tournament last season, as the event was postponed and later canceled. This season, Mendenhall has lost time on the mat, with the Vikings forced to alter their schedule because of several cancellations. 

Mendenhall has taken the obstacles in stride as he prepares for the postseason, in which he will compete at 220 pounds or heavyweight and hopes to earn a second berth to state. He was 9-0 before the Vikings competed against Bexley on Feb. 18.

“I still think about last season, but as long as I can make it (to state) again, I just have to keep improving each match and I’ll be fine,” Mendenhall said. “My technique has gotten a lot better and I’m much stronger. I believe I’m faster, quicker as well.” 

Academy begins the postseason by competing in a 20-team sectional Feb. 27 at Madison Plains.

Since he has seen limited action during the regular season, Mendenhall expects to be unseeded, but he’s not concerned.

“It doesn’t make a difference,” he said. “It will probably just be a little tougher, but I can handle it. I pretty much just show up and wrestle.” 

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 6 and 7 at Coshocton. 

At district, the top four in each weight advance to state March 13 and 14 at Marion Harding. The usual site of the state tournament, Ohio State’s Value City Arena, was not available this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Last season, Mendenhall finished 41-5 while competing mainly at 195. He was the Vikings’ first state qualifier since 2017-18, when Josh Pearson went 1-2 at 220. 

“We don’t talk about last year too much,” coach Paul Bukky said. “I tell kids you have to take things in stride no matter what. I know some of the kids get anxious and get upset, but I just tell them to take it in stride, keep preparing.” 

As a freshman, Mendenhall went 2-2 at district at 195 to finish 23-6. He was 73-11 for his career before Feb. 18.

“He is tough,” Bukky said. “He’s very receptive, that’s probably the best part of him. ... You can show him something on the side and he can go out and do it. He’s pretty good. I’m so pleased with him not only as a wrestler, but as just a person. He’s a wonderful kid, unbelievable, and we have a lot of wonderful kids. They’re not just good athletes, they’re good people.” 

Mendenhall also is a standout offensive and defensive lineman and is strongly considering playing football at the collegiate level. He has a 3.87 GPA and has been in contact with several schools, including Akron, Harvard and Pittsburgh. 

He was first-team all-district and all-MSL-Ohio Division and second-team all-state in Division V in the fall. 

Bukky expects several other wrestlers to have strong postseasons, including seniors Keir Gorospe (145/152), Ethan Stahl (182/195) and Chris Sugar (145), junior Chase Chavarria (heavyweight), sophomore Tiko Bdoyan (138/145) and freshmen Parker Knapp (126) and Nick Yakam (138/145). 

“What I enjoy is the postseason and I know Gyvnn is looking forward to it,” Bukky said. “One or two other kids are going to have to step up. Parker is tough and he’s smart. He’s invested a lot into wrestling, so he’s not like a guy who is just coming out during wrestling season. He’s doing something in the offseason. He’s going to camps, clinics, whatever he can do. It’s a credit to him.” 

Academy diver earns 

first state berth 

After missing most of her freshman season with a shoulder injury and her entire sophomore season while she was studying in England, junior diver Blake Skilken made giant strides this season. 

Skilken qualified for her first Division II state meet by finishing second (370.8) at district Feb. 16 at Jefferson Country Club. She competed with a sprained left ankle. 

“I really didn’t mind what place I got, I just wanted to get through the meet and then let the ankle recover for state if I made it,” Skilken said.  

The top three finishers advanced to state, which was held Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

“It’s been crazy with COVID, but it’s been nice to finally compete in high school,” Skilken said. 

Her sister, Jordan, is a 2019 graduate of Academy and a sophomore diver at the University of Texas. She earned four podium finishes at state with the Vikings. 

“Sometimes I stay up at night just watching videos of her diving,” said Blake, who has committed to Ohio State. “It’s really nice to have a sister who is so good at diving to visualize my diving with her as an example. Every time I need help, I always ask her for advice. She’s amazing at giving technique.” 

Boys bowling team 

caps season at district 

The boys bowling team completed its season by competing in the Division II district tournament Feb. 15 at HP Lanes. 

Academy finished ninth (3,270) of 12 teams behind champion Heath (3,755). Sophomore Jacob Mowery led the Vikings by finishing ninth with a 565 three-game series, followed by junior Ryan Reagan (20th, 535), senior Cole Leis (tied for 45th, 455), senior Vincent White (59th, 408) and senior Gabe Taub (60th, 405). 

Because of a lack of bowlers, the girls team competed in just two matches this season. 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

BOWLING 

Record: Boys – 4-4 overall; Girls – 0-2 overall  

League finishes: Boys – Fifth (3-3) in COHSBC-C, third (2,927) in MSL-Ohio pool play behind first-place Whitehall (3,455) 

Seniors lost: Boys – Cole Leis, Jacob Podgurski, Skylar Simpson, Gabe Taub and Vincent White; Girls – Evelyn Olexio and Madeline Rosenberg 

Key returnees: Boys – Jacob Mowery and Ryan Reagan; Girls – Adeline Butler and Tara Hoffman 

Postseason: Boys – Fourth (3,467) at sectional behind champion Heath (3,772), ninth (3,270) at district behind champion Heath (3,755); Girls – Did not compete in postseason