Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions wrestlers primed for sectional competition

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Ricky Alli and his Gahanna teammates are preparing for a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Newark. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

Going through a season that had a delayed start – one in which his team hasn’t competed in any tournaments – has felt “weird” to Gahanna Lincoln wrestler Ricky Alli. 

One positive that has come from the experience for the senior 182-pounder has been how much he believes he’s improved because of the type of instruction he’s been receiving. 

Alli and his teammates are preparing for a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Newark. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby. 

“I’m very excited (about the postseason),” Alli said. “This is my senior year so I’m glad I get to compete. I’m very fortunate that we’ve been able to have dual meets, tri-meets and quad meets. I definitely feel pretty good. I get more individual time in practice. We have to have less time in the room, but I’ve had more time with coaches and that’s definitely helped.” 

Alli, who has committed to play linebacker at Ashland, has drilled regularly with senior Christian Mitchell and freshman Javon Lewis, both of whom weigh in the 170 to 182 range. 

Marcus Rogers (160) and Charles Williams (145) are other seniors hoping for postseason success. 

While Alli went 2-2 at 182 in the district tournament and Williams was a state qualifier at 132 last season, Rogers is hoping to make a dent in the postseason as well. 

“It’s been going well,” Rogers said. “I’m glad we got to wrestle since this was my last year. It seems like we’ve been doing pretty well considering what’s happened. I can’t complain. I still enjoy wrestling. I’m glad we could all still stay together.” 

The Lions had one representative in the girls state tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Hilliard Davidson in freshman Emily Leeseburg, who went 2-2 and placed fourth at 101 in the district tournament Feb. 14 at Olentangy Orange to advance. 

She was 8-6 against girls heading into the state tournament. 

“The girls season has been going well,” Leeseburg said.  

While there were 16 competitors in each weight class at the girls state tournament, 11 teams are expected to have competitors in attendance at the boys sectional. That includes Dublin Coffman, which finished third in the state team tournament Feb. 6. 

Gahanna defeated Westland 45-30 on Feb. 12 to close the OCC-Ohio Division schedule at 3-2. 

“(The sectional is) going to be a tough one, but we’re excited for both the upperclassmen and our freshmen,” coach Mike Flusche said. “We’re hoping to get out as many as we can. It’s a tough sectional with Coffman being there.” 

Provan advances

to state in diving

Following a fourth-place district finish that qualified her for last season’s Division I state girls diving meet, Ashleigh Provan was not able to compete at Branin Natatorium in Canton because of food poisoning. 

Now a senior, Provan will get another shot at the state’s highest level when she competes Feb. 26 after earning a runner-up finish (482.65) on Feb. 15 in the district meet at Jefferson County Club. 

“Being back at states really gives me so much motivation to do what I know I can do well and consistently,” Provan said. “I didn’t get a chance to compete last year at states because I got food poisoning and I was so disappointed about that, so I’m super stoked to be able to go back this year.  

“One key … is to just stay calm and have fun through the whole process. I don’t want to focus on other people’s scores and I just hope everything all goes well.” 

Also competing at district were sophomore Vicky Miller, who was sixth (370.5) to miss advancing to state by 3.35 points as the top five moved on, and sophomore Benita Alli (21st, 212.6). 

The Lions opened the postseason with a sectional Feb. 13 at New Albany in which those were the only programs in attendance.  

There were no automatic berths to the district meet Feb. 21 at Bowling Green, with the top 24 in individual events and the top 16 relays advancing based on sectional times.  

At district, the top two finishers in each event automatically advanced to the state meet Feb. 26 for girls and Feb. 27 for boys at Branin Natatorium. The remaining state qualifiers were determined based on times from all district meets statewide. 

For the girls team, sophomore Marie Belli was the third seed in the 200-yard individual medley and the ninth seed in the 100 backstroke at district. Junior Sami Kiss was seeded fifth in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle relay was seeded fourth. 

Also advancing to district were senior Mackenzie Massman (100 butterfly), juniors Eloise Fisher (100 breast, 200 IM), Kendall Hitler (100 fly, 200 IM) and Regan Reetz (200 free, 500 free), sophomore Stella Brofford (200 free, 500 free) and freshman Cambell Payton (200 free, 500 free), as well as the 200 medley and 200 free relays. 

The boys team’s best hope of advancing to state was senior McCord Riegler, who entered district seeded seventh in the 100 breast. He also competed in the 100 free. 

Others who advanced to district were seniors Brandon Patrick (100 breast) and Nathan Vogelgesang (50 free), juniors Morgan Govekar (200 IM) and Ethan Krier (200 IM, 100 back), freshmen Eli Riegler (500 free) and Josh Riegler (100 back) and the 200 free, 200 medley and 400 free relays. 

Bella Ward and OCC-Ohio champion Gahanna opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 17 with a 57-25 victory over Mount Vernon.

Basketball teams  

begin tourney play 

With a 59-35 victory over Grove City on Feb. 12, the girls basketball team wrapped up the outright OCC-Ohio championship after sharing the title last season. 

The Lions finished 10-0 in the league and were 15-5 overall after opening the Division I district tournament Feb. 17 with a 57-25 victory over 33rd-seeded Mount Vernon that advanced them into a second-round game Feb. 19 at home against 28th-seeded Thomas Worthington.

If the sixth-seeded Lions beat the Cardinals, they played 16th-seeded Marysville or 24th-seeded Grove City on Feb. 24 in a district semifinal, with the winner advancing to a district final Feb. 27. 

Second-seeded Coffman, which lost to Gahanna in a district semifinal in 2019 and in a district final last season, is the only higher seed than the Lions in the bracket. 

Junior forward Bella Ward has increased her scoring average from 9.5 points last season to 16 this winter to lead the way. 

The top-seeded boys basketball team opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 against 49th-seeded Whetstone, with the winner playing 46th-seeded Central Crossing on Feb. 26 at the home of the better seed. If the Lions won both of those games, they will play 18th-seeded Northland, 19th-seeded Lancaster or 24th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal March 3 at the home of the better seed. 

Gahanna would continue to have home-court advantage if it reaches a district final March 6, with ninth-seeded Coffman and 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg the most likely opponents.  

The Lions improved to 16-2 overall and clinched at least a share of the OCC-Ohio title with a 65-25 win over Grove City on Feb. 12 that improved their league record to 8-1.

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek