Wrestling: Central Crossing working to overcome obstacles

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Michael Bradshaw is one of only three seniors on the Central Crossing wrestling team. The Comets' preseason has been limited to practices featuring pods of nine wrestlers and a coach because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Jamie Ramirez had never seen an offseason or preseason quite like this.

The 11th-year Central Crossing wrestling coach had little or no offseason with his team because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, while the preseason has been limited to practices featuring pods of nine wrestlers and a coach.

Ramirez said the coaching staff has needed to be creative as it prepares the wrestlers for the season, but he knows all programs are dealing with similar obstacles.

“We’re coming up with ways to make it work,” Ramirez said. “We’re working in pods of 10 and when the next group comes in, the first group goes over to the weight room.

“It can be tough because you have kids and they have to be kept motivated. That’s difficult in pods when you don’t have the whole team together. We have to be creative and keep things exciting. Everyone’s in the same boat.”

Ramirez said the program is down to 20 participants, including just three seniors in Michael Bradshaw (170/182 pounds), Ali El-Barati (152/160) and Abel Garantche (195/220).

Garantche went 2-2 in the Division I district tournament last season to finish 29-17, and sophomore Donnie Morris was 0-2 at district to finish 6-16.

“After competing at district last season, I knew I had to work to get better,” said Morris, who will compete at 132. “Right now things are up in the air. You never know when you’re going to walk onto the mat, so you have to be ready for anything.”

The Comets have been scrambling to fill their lineup. Sophomore Caleb Eads and sophomore Addison Rudolph — the program’s lone girl — are vying to compete at 106, while freshman Oliver Savage is at 113 and 120 remains open.

Junior Camern Howard, a move-in from Westland, will be at 126, with Morris at 132 and the coach’s son, sophomore Jamie Ramirez, at 138. 

The rest of the lineup is expected to include freshman Braden Sheets (145), sophomore Jayden Vazquez (152), El-Barati (160), sophomore Ryder Gwartney (170), Bradshaw or sophomore Tra Helsel (182), junior Shane Bass (195), Garantche (220) and junior Max Webb (heavyweight).

“Our freshmen numbers are down with only five when we usually have around nine or 10,” coach Ramirez said. “The kids we have now seem pretty serious about it.

“Some kids have to lose some weight, but they’re spread out enough, which is nice. We have a lot of kids in middle weights, and we have a lot of new faces that will be getting some good time on the mat.”

The Comets are scheduled to open Tuesday, Dec. 22, in a quad at Olentangy Berlin.

“Most of the season is going to be dual meets, (tri-meets) or quads,” coach Ramirez said. “We canceled the Comet Classic, which we’ve had over the past several years in January. There won’t be a lot of tournaments. The scheduling has been a lot like the wild, wild west.”

Grove City junior Francesca Lanese won the title at 160 pounds in the first girls state tournament last winter.

Greyhounds coach 

ready for season

Second-year Grove City coach Ryan Mitchell is feeling optimistic about his team.

“I love coaching these kids,” Mitchell said. “We have some hard-working kids in the room. We have a year of experience. Last year’s freshman and sophomore classes were very strong. We were a young team last year and we’re still a young team, but a year of experience at the varsity level for a lot of those guys was huge.”

A highlight last season was junior Francesca Lanese winning the title at 160 in the first girls state tournament, and she’s looking to defend the title.

“She’s definitely trying to improve all the time,” Mitchell said. “She wants to get back in there. You win one and you don’t want to be satisfied with that.”

The Greyhounds return five district qualifiers, a group that includes junior Brayden Benson (182). He went 2-2 at 195 at district to finish 30-13.

Sophomore Braxton Sheets (120/126) was a district qualifier at 113 and finished 19-9, while other district qualifiers were seniors Carson Dunagan (195) and Carlin Hamilton (195) and sophomore Regan Mitchell (120/126).

Slade Waller (120/126) was 18-16, and Drew Palmer (113/120) was 16-14. Both are sophomores.

Junior David Jordan (138/145) missed part of last season with an injury and finished 11-7 after being a district qualifier in 2019.

Senior Josiah Bever (145/152) attends Grove City Christian but competes for the Greyhounds since the Eagles don’t have a wrestling program.

Also expected to contribute are seniors Bobby Adams (heavyweight), Camron Berio (132), William Mason (heavyweight) and A.J. Stoll (132/138), juniors Triston Beane (138/145), Gavin Kirk (220) and Trent VanderWerf (152) and sophomores Isaac Carter (220), Jade Julien (152) and Gavin Randall (heavyweight).

“We’re pretty deep at a few weight classes, but that also means that really good kids are not going to get in the varsity lineup,” Mitchell said.

Other girls on the team are returning senior Faith Gay (heavyweight) and freshman Anna Shearer (126).

The Greyhounds went 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division last season to finish third behind champion Lancaster (5-0). They are now in a realigned OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, New Albany, Pickerington North, Westerville Central and Westland.

Grove City is scheduled to open Saturday, Dec. 19, at Dublin Jerome with Lancaster and Watkins Memorial.

Nick Tavanello, a three-time state champion at Wadsworth and a two-time national qualifier at Ohio State, has been added to the coaching staff. He is guiding the upper weights.

—Frank DiRenna

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CENTRAL CROSSING

Coach: Jamie Ramirez, 11th season

Top wrestlers: Abel Garantche and Donnie Morris, Jamie Ramirez and Jayden Vazquez

Key losses: Omari Green, Derek Layne and Nate VanHouten

2019-20 OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (5-0), Upper Arlington (4-1), Marysville (3-2), Westland (2-3), Hilliard Davidson (1-4), Central Crossing (0-5)

2020 postseason: Ninth at sectional, 30th at district

GROVE CITY

Coach: Ryan Mitchell, second season

Top athletes: Brayden Benson, David Jordan, Francesca Lanese and Braxton Sheets

Key losses: Seth Burns, Dom Reynolds and Joey Woolard

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

2020 postseason: Third at sectional, tied for 24th at district