Notebook: Transformation leads to success for Central Crossing Comets wrestler Abel Garantche
By his own admission, Abel Garantche was “pretty chubby” when he first stepped on the mat for the Central Crossing wrestling program.
Weighing in at 260-plus pounds, Garantche referred to himself as a “super heavyweight.” He wasn’t comfortable in his own skin and decided a change was necessary. Garantche dropped weight to wrestle at 220 and has found success on and off the mat.
Garantche was 21-4 overall before a quad Feb. 6 at Jonathan Alder. Last season, he was a Division I district qualifier, going 2-2 at 220 to finish 29-17.
“I have way more stamina than I had as a freshman, and I’m strong and I’ve lost a lot of weight,” he said.
Garantche started a diet and training regimen from his wrestling coach Jamie Ramirez, who teaches health and physical education at Central Crossing.
“I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that it wasn’t the person I wanted to grow up to be,” Garantche said. “After that, I started to cut weight and slowly I made it down to here.
“I just went to practice and worked hard. I asked coach what I should eat, and I followed that plan. I don’t have to watch my weight too much for 220.”
Ramirez said Garantche works hard and always comes to the practice room with a smile.
“Abel’s a great kid. Everyone loves him,” Ramirez said. “He has that contagious smile. ... He’s very intense when it comes to wrestling but he’s the nicest kid. It’s always ‘Yes, sir.’ and ‘No, sir.’ He’s just a very pleasant person to be around.
“But, he has that edge on the mat. He likes to win and he likes to compete. He can turn that on when he gets on the mat and turn it off when he steps off. That’s exactly what you’re looking for in an athlete.”
Garantche was born in central Ohio but moved back to the west African country of Niger to live with his grandmother. He returned with his parents, Abdou and Amy Garantche, when he was in the sixth grade. He didn’t take up wrestling until eighth grade.
“I went to a practice, and I liked the physicality,” he said. “It teaches you how to be tough and get through life. It also teaches me about leadership.”
Garantche said playing defensive end for the football team has made him a better wrestler.
“They mostly teach us how to stand low and to fire off quick (in football),” he said. “That has helped me a lot in my (wrestling) stance from last year.”
Garantche has district experience under his belt and hopes for better results should he return this season. The Comets are in a sectional Feb. 27 at Upper Arlington, followed by the district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
But he has more than district success in mind. His goal is a trip to state.
“I have to be ready when I get on the mat,” said Garantche, who has a 3.7 GPA and would like to wrestle in college while majoring in electrical engineering. “I wasn’t aggressive in my first match (at district). I got taken down and the guy pinned me in the first period. After that I was more aggressive and wrestled more like I normally do.
“I want to make it to state, and if I do that coach promised me he would get me Chick-fil-A. I definitely miss Chick-fil-A (because of my diet). I haven’t had that since my sophomore year.”
•The Central Crossing boys basketball team picked up its first win Feb. 1 by defeating Franklin Heights 37-27.
Coach Neil Hohman said it was a much-needed reward for the Comets, who were 1-12 overall and 0-6 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Newark on Feb. 5.
“It was great to get that win and see some satisfaction from the guys that the work and learning they’ve been doing achieved some positive results,” said Hohman, whose team avenged a 54-50 loss to the Falcons on Dec. 30. “We had a few basic things we’ve emphasized and worked on all year that came into play. The guys are getting some experience at the varsity level and many of them are understanding the speed and toughness needed to compete, win or lose.”
Jeremy Burns had 12 points to lead the Comets, and Tristen Needham added 10.
The Comets play at Mifflin on Feb. 11 before road league games at Reynoldsburg on Feb. 12 and Lancaster on Feb. 13. They face Teays Valley at home Feb. 16 to close a stretch of nine games in 16 days.
•The Grove City girls basketball team looked to get back on track after having its season paused because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Greyhounds had won six of seven before stopping play after a player from Upper Arlington tested positive for the virus, according to coach Joel Taylor. Grove City beat UA 50-36 on Jan. 28.
The Greyhounds were 8-6 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington North on Feb. 8.
Through 14 games, Ellie Pollock-Ballard led the team in scoring at 11.0 points, followed by Kayla Jones (10.0), Olivia Keeney (7.6) and Alissa Schiff (7.5).
“Our balanced scoring is a strong point of our team,” Taylor said. “We’ve had different leading scorers almost every night. I think it adds to our versatility and makes it difficult to key on any one player.”
Grove City is seeded 24th in the Division I district tournament and will visit 16th-seeded Marysville in the second round Feb. 19.
“I like our chances,” Taylor said. “We feel it’s a game that we can win. It will be a challenge with the layoff, but our kids are resilient and have stepped up all year long.”
•The Grove City wrestling team is continuing its challenging schedule in preparation for an 11-team Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial.
The Greyhounds, who are seeded 13th, were was 18-2 before competing in a quad Feb. 6 at Upper Arlington.
The Greyhounds, who are 4-0 in the OCC-Ohio, will look to secure the outright league title Feb. 11 against visiting Westland.
“We’re a little banged up and dealing with some nagging injuries, as most teams are this time of year,” coach Ryan Mitchell said. “With everything that has gone on and the challenges of getting through a season with COVID, the kids and coaching staff have stayed very positive and they’re buying into the work we need to do.”
Through 20 matches, Braxton Sheets was 17-1 (120/126 pounds), Slade Waller was 16-3 (120/126), Carlin Hamilton was 15-2 (195), Brayden Benson was 14-0 (182), Drew Palmer was 14-3 (113/120), Storm Beane was 12-3 (152/160) and Tristan Beane was 12-4 (138/145).
•The Grove City Christian boys basketball team resumed its season Jan. 30 after a layoff because of the pandemic, losing 67-42 to Berne Union.
Braydan Taylor led Grove City Christian with nine points. Caleb Ransom had six points and nine rebounds, and Seth Vaughn added six points.
Taylor and Vaughn each scored 12 in an 88-39 loss to Harvest Prep on Feb. 1.
“The kids were very excited to play again,” coach Chris Timlin said. “The staff and I are confident that if we can go quarantine-free from this point moving forward, we could surprise a team or two in February. It’s imperative that we stay on the floor, though. I’m proud of how well the boys continue to respond to our pauses.”
Grove City Christian was 3-9 overall and 1-9 in the MSL-Cardinal before playing Fairfield Christian on Feb. 5.
•The Grove City Christian girls basketball team also has been affected by the pandemic as the Eagles returned Feb. 3 against Berne Union after having their season paused Jan. 11.
Grove City Christian had only five players available and lost 62-6 to fall to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the MSL-Cardinal before playing Harvest Prep on Feb. 4.
Coach Bill Spencer expects to finish the season with seven players.
“We’re doing OK with what we have,” he said. “This COVID is really having an effect on basketball.”
Through eight games, Sienna Brunicardi led the Eagles in scoring at 12.0 points with McKenzie Kennedy leading in rebounding (12.0).
The Eagles are seeded 13th in the Division IV district tournament and will visit third-seeded Fisher Catholic in the second round Feb. 20.
Berne Union is the No. 1 seed.
“We would love to play the games,” Spencer said. “We’re trying to build one of the best programs in the district. It’s going to take a while.”