Grandview Heights Roundup: Wrestlers hoping for strength in numbers

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Gabhran Downer (back) is the only senior on the Grandview Heights wrestling team, and he's setting the tone for the season as the Bobcats' leader. “We really get after it, and we want to be more competitive,” he said.

Numbers are down in many sports programs this winter because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but that is not the case for the Grandview Heights wrestling team.

After having just seven participants during the 2018-19 season, the Bobcats had 19 last year and that number has risen to 20 in the second season under coach Mike Dodge.

“We had 25 kids sign up, but I figured that it was tough to keep kids out for wrestling. So if I can keep 20, that would be good enough,” Dodge said. “The numbers are looking great and keeping a constant, consistent number is one of our plans. We have a lot of dudes, and I’m excited to see about what has happened.”

The Bobcats again are a young squad. With no seniors and a roster filled with wrestlers still learning the basics of the sport a year ago, Dodge decided to have his team not participate in the postseason. Instead of practices geared for the tournament, Grandview concentrated on preparing for the future.

“I really try to put the kids first,” Dodge said. “If you can really form tight relationships with kids, you can coach them however you want.

“One thing I like about this year’s group is that these kids want to be coached, and they want you to be tough on them. They’ve really accepted that style of coaching and I’m happy about that.”

The Bobcats have just one senior in Gabhran Downer (220 pounds).

"Gab Downer is our only senior, and he’s the big boss man in our change,” Dodge said. “I told him that we had to be the hardest on him because the kids look up to him. He’s done a great job stepping up in that leadership role. Being my second year, he’s fed off me and how we should push the underclassmen.”

Downer understands his role and how to mold the younger athletes into wrestlers.

“We’re not just trying to get kids to stay with wrestling, but we want them to learn about it,” he said. “Last year was an info year because they didn’t know much about the sport. This year we’ve increased the tempo and intensity. We really get after it, and we want to be more competitive.”

Another top returnee is junior Tazio Pintor (138), who also enjoys taking on the role of being a leader.

“You have to work hard every day, and you always need to be pushing yourself as well as your teammates and helping everyone be the best that they can be,” Pintor said. “One of the main things is holding yourself accountable. When you have the chance to do extra, do it. You have to be strong and willing to put in the work to be great.

“Last year, we had a lot of new kids who didn’t know a lot about wrestling. Those kids are ready to go at it this year. They didn’t know what they were getting into, but now they have a winning mentality. They know what they’re getting into.”

Juniors Will Doolittle (heavyweight) and Ian Matney (106/113) also are expected to be leaders.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Carter Black (195), Mikael Black (160), Harvey Pierce (145) and Zach Taylor (132), sophomores Logan Baker (152), Maddox Baker (152), Owen Billiter (170), Kellen Dowdy (182), Jeffrey Grant (160), Jack Pulver (138), Jason Reaser (145), Lane Stottlemire (113) and Walt Donahue (heavyweight) and freshmen Parker Black (182), Steve Chordas (152) and Jake Sakash (170).

Fifteen of the 20 participants also played football.

“(Football) coach (Jason) Peters has done a great job of promoting wrestling,”  said Dodge, who is an assistant with the football program. “Most of the kids on the team are from football and from the kids talking up the sport there.”

The Bobcats are scheduled to compete against Westerville North on Jan. 9 at home and to open MSL-Ohio Division duals Jan. 14 against visiting Bexley.

“I’m excited to get things going,” Dodge said. “We’re getting better, and we’re pushing ourselves. I can’t wait to take our wrestling mentality to take people after the preseason we had.”

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

WRESTLING

Coach: Mike Dodge, second season

Top athletes: Walt Donahue, Gabhran Downer, Ian Matney and Tazio Pintor

Key losses: None

2019-20 MSL-Ohio standings: Buckeye Valley (83), Bexley (82), Whitehall (70), Columbus Academy (35), Grandview (23)

2020 postseason: Did not participate in Division III postseason