Pickerington Central: Tigers' Styles brothers relish season together

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Brothers and Central standouts Lorenzo Styles Jr., left, and Alex Styles have helped the defending Division I state champion Tigers enjoy another outstanding season. Their father, Lorenzo Styles Sr., played at Ohio State and has been a defensive assistant coach for Central since 2012.

A nickname that Pickerington Central sophomore Alex Styles received long ago and still commonly goes by doesn’t exactly fit anymore.

When he was about 3 years old, Styles’ family — which includes his older brother, senior Lorenzo Styles Jr., and their father, Lorenzo Styles — affectionately gave Alex the name “Sonny” after the character Santino “Sonny” Corleone from the “Godfather” movies because of his fiery temperament.

Alex’s personality has become more “laid back,” as he describes it, over the years, but the nickname stuck.

Styles Jr. isn’t sure which Corleone would best describe him, but says he’s “more of the calm and collected one.”

“There was a (movie) called ‘The Godfather’ and the character Sonny was just a hothead,” Styles Jr. said. “(Alex) was like the character, so with that they called him ‘Sonny.’ He was like that, especially when he was younger, but as he gets older it’s gotten better.”

The Styles family has been instrumental in keeping the tradition of success going for the Tigers football team this fall.

Top-seeded Central was 7-0 before playing eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby on Oct. 16 in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal, with the winner to play fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg or 13th-seeded Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 23 in a regional semifinal.

Styles Sr. was a linebacker at Ohio State from 1991-94, spent six seasons in the NFL and has been a defensive assistant coach for the Tigers since 2012.

Styles Jr. is a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who was a contributor as a freshman when Central won its first state championship in 2017.

In last year’s 21-14 victory over Cincinnati Elder in the state title game, Styles Jr. scored on a game-winning 49-yard touchdown catch from Demeatric Crenshaw with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left.

Alex, who is 6-4, 208, missed all of last season with a broken left tibia but is a starter at free safety this fall while his older brother starts in the secondary and at wide receiver.

“It feels really good playing with my brother and some of my guys that I played with when I was younger,” Alex said. “(My brother has taught me that) every time you’re out there, just give it your all. He feels like as a senior the time just flew by, so just cherish it.”

While Styles Jr. committed to Notre Dame with Ohio State as his No. 2 choice, Alex already has offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Toledo and Indiana.

In his first prep game, a 35-9 victory over Pickerington North on Aug. 30, Alex had an interception and blocked a punt that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

“I’m just excited,” Styles Jr. said. “(Alex and I) haven’t played together since about sixth grade, so being on the field together is good. I feel like for him it all started at a young age with all the preparation and all the work he’s put in.”

The Styles family lives in the North attendance zone but both open-enrolled to Central.

Alex’s injury took place shortly before fall practice was set to begin in 2019 while he was playing basketball.

He joined the Tigers’ boys basketball team at midseason last winter and immediately became a contributor.

“Over a long period of time (the left tibia) started to break down, but I was playing basketball and in one of the last tournaments of the summer, I jumped up to block the dude’s shot and in midair the force of me jumping up was the last straw,” Alex said. “I knew it was going to (keep me out) the whole (football) season, but I wanted to make sure I was right. I learned to just stay ready and listen to your body.”

Through seven games, Styles Jr. had rushed for 118 yards and one touchdown, had seven receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown and had returned 15 punts for 377 yards and two scores. On defense, he had 13 tackles with two tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

Alex had four interceptions and 24 tackles.

Seniors A.J. Sanders, Sirron Smith and Quinn Wills also are key players in the secondary.

“Lorenzo Styles started for us when he was a freshman and we went 15 weeks, then he started 14 weeks and last year when we went 15 weeks,” coach Jay Sharrett said. “You’re talking (about) a guy playing 100 plays a game. The best thing (for Alex) is that Lorenzo Styles Jr. is his brother. He learns how to handle himself on the field. The athleticism, the height, everybody can measure that, but it’s the immeasurables. He studies the game plan, studies the film and knows where the pass is going. He knows the game of football.”

Kyah Ewing, left, celebrates her goal with Kassidy Stanley during host Central's 3-1 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 24. The Tigers clinched an outright OCC-Buckeye Division championship with a 7-0 win over Reynoldsburg on Oct. 13.

Soccer, volleyball 

teams win titles

The boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams all clinched outright OCC-Buckeye championships Oct. 13.

The boys soccer team defeated host Reynoldsburg 4-2 to win its first league title since 2001, two years before the district split, and at the same time the girls soccer team beat visiting Raiders 7-0 for its first championship since 2014.

Both teams finished 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. The boys finished the regular season at 7-6-3 overall, and the girls were 8-7 overall before their final regular-season game Oct. 15 against Logan.

The girls volleyball team tried to finish a 10-0 league season Oct. 15 against Reynoldsburg. The Tigers clinched the OCC-Buckeye by outlasting host Lancaster 20-25, 25-12, 21-25, 25-15, 15-7 to improve to 16-4 overall and 9-0 in the league.

—Dave Purpura

Tennis players

fall short at district

Both of the girls tennis team’s doubles pairings fell shy of state berths in the Division I district tournament Oct. 15 at Reynoldsburg.

Semmie Moore and Khandice Thomas split two matches, defeating Olentangy Liberty's Megan Haddow and Charvi Thumati 6-2, 6-1 before losing to Olentangy Orange's Taylor Reed and Caroline Sproule 6-3, 6-0 in a state-qualifying match.

Ella Culver and Alexis Heren lost to Olentangy's Sydney Nickel and Archita Sriram 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

Moore and Thomas were coming off a first-place finish in the Tigers’ home sectional that concluded Oct. 10. Culver and Heren finished third.

Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were singles players Sydney Vernadakis (2-1), Robyn Beaty (0-1) and Issysis Hill (0-1).

Central’s hopes for an Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state team tournament berth came to an end Oct. 12 with a 4-0 home loss to Upper Arlington in a district semifinal. The Tigers finished 17-3 in dual matches.

—Dave Purpura

Boys golf season 

ends at district

The boys golf team’s quest for its first Division I state tournament appearance since 1995 ended Oct. 13 at district, as it tied for 10th place (324) with New Albany and Pickerington North at Apple Valley.

Senior Jaden Thompson shot a 78 to lead the Tigers, followed by senior Aidan Allen (80) and juniors Cole Crandall and Carter Woodward (both 83). Senior Blake Bennett shot an 84.

“We just didn't really get off to a great start. We weren't able to ease our way into the round (but) I love how we battled,” coach Chris Cores said. “We were probably 10 to 12 shots better on the front nine, which was our second nine. I loved how the guys battled and were able to come back from it. We ultimately just dug ourselves too big of a hole starting on the back nine.”

Olentangy Orange (298) and defending state champion Dublin Jerome (302) advanced to state.

Central’s district appearance ended a season that saw the Tigers win their second consecutive league championship, this one in the OCC-Buckeye after 12 seasons in the OCC-Ohio. They went 20-0 in the OCC-Buckeye and are 36-4 in league play the past two seasons.

—Dave Purpura

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BOYS GOLF

OCC-Buckeye standings: Pickerington Central (20-0), Reynoldsburg (16-4), Lancaster (12-8), Newark (8-12), Central Crossing (4-16), Groveport (0-20)

Seniors lost: Aidan Allen, Blake Bennett and Jaden Thompson

Key returnees: Cole Crandall and Carter Woodward

Postseason: Fourth (316) at sectional behind champion Olentangy Liberty (297); tied for 10th (324) at district behind champion Olentangy Orange (298)