Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders' Michael Dawkins eager for start of final wrestling postseason
Michael Dawkins had the bigger picture in mind when he sat out the Reynoldsburg wrestling team’s final OCC-Buckeye Division dual Feb. 11 as well as its other match that night after suffering a minor injury during practice the day before.
It was a sacrifice he knew was necessary to protect his final opportunity for postseason success at the prep level.
A senior who joined the program last season, Dawkins was a Division II district qualifier at 120 pounds as a freshman at Hartley and was a Division I district qualifier as a sophomore at the same weight for Whitehall.
Because of the OHSAA transfer rule, he wasn’t able to compete during the second half of last season and was 11-5 when his season ended.
This winter, Dawkins is 16-1 overall at 132 and went 4-0 in OCC-Buckeye matches.
“(My injury is) feeling better, but I didn’t want to go out on the mat and risk anything with the sectional coming up,” Dawkins said. “It’s just more so determination. My last year was taken from me and I’ve had this personal thing to prove to everybody.”
The Raiders won their last two league duals by the same score – 57-18 over Groveport on Feb. 4 and Pickerington Central on Feb. 11 – to finish 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye. They also lost 42-30 to Marion Pleasant on Feb. 11 to finish 4-9 overall.
Dawkins did as much as possible to stay active last summer.
“It was really just me in my backyard, just drilling,” Dawkins said. “I would go out twice a day. Just having everything stacked against me, not being able to wrestle in the second half and (the) COVID(-19 coronavirus pandemic), I couldn’t practice in the offseason so it was just a determination to push through all of that and prove that I can do so much more than what people have limited me to.”
Dawkins, who said his biggest strength has been his ability to ride opponents but also has focused on improving in the neutral position, will be among the Raiders set to compete in the 12-team Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Upper Arlington.
The top four in each weight advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.
“Michael has been wrestling very well and is progressing each week,” coach Jon Forgy said. “He works hard in practice and is starting to peak at the right time. He’s hungry from not being able to participate in the postseason last year after being a district qualifier his sophomore year at Whitehall.”
Sophomore Logan Smalley (138 or 145) was hopeful he’d be cleared to compete in the postseason after going down with a right knee injury at last year’s sectional but was unable to wrestle in any regular-season matches and has been limited to a few practice sessions.
At the girls district tournament Feb. 13 and 14 at Olentangy Orange, junior Gracie Straughter finished second at 111 to advance to the state tournament Feb. 20 and 21 at Hilliard Davidson.
Straughter, who helped the Raiders finish eighth (37) behind champion and host Orange (258.5) as 27 teams scored, has been battling a shoulder injury but advanced to the district final before electing to injury default since she had already qualified for state.
After not placing at the inaugural state tournament last season, Straughter beat Orange’s Sara Borton 6-3 in a district semifinal to qualify for this year's state event.
“It’s been going pretty well,” Straughter said “I have a shoulder injury and have been trying to nurse it. (I hurt my) shoulder during a match. My shoulder got dislocated, so now I’m just trying to minimize it.”
Also advancing to state girls was Christy Thelusma, who placed fourth at 143 at district.
The other district entrants at the girls district were Cassidy Gall (131), who placed fifth, and Summer Batts (101).
Boys basketball team
to begin tourney play
The 10th-seeded boys basketball team opens the Division I district tournament Feb. 26 at home against 27th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 30th-seeded Dublin Jerome in the second round.
With a win, the Raiders will face ninth-seeded Dublin Coffman, 29th-seeded Olentangy Berlin or 31st-seeded Hilliard Darby on March 3 in a district semifinal. The district final is set for March 6, with top-seeded Gahanna among the possible opponents if Reynoldsburg advances.
The Raiders lost 66-61 to Coffman on Jan. 5 and 64-50 to Gahanna on Feb. 2.
After falling 64-60 to Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 13, Reynoldsburg was 11-6 overall. It was 8-1 in the OCC-Buckeye after beating Central Crossing 65-30 on Feb. 12, and closed the conference schedule Feb. 19 at Pickerington Central with a chance to earn a share of the league title.
The Tigers were 9-0 in the OCC-Buckeye entering the contest and won the first meeting 57-47 on Jan. 15.
Coach Andy Moore believes his team has shown at times that it is capable of going deep into the district tournament. The Raiders were district runners-up in 2019 and a district semifinalist last season.
Jerome was 8-12 overall but beat Eastmoor 64-39 on Feb. 13 to win its third in four games while Watkins Memorial closed the regular season at 12-10 overall but played a schedule filled with mostly Division II programs.
Coffman was 11-5 after beating Upper Arlington 64-62 on Feb. 12.
“It’s shown our guys that they’ve got another level they can go to as far as conditioning,” Moore said. “They’ve got it in them.”
Through 17 games, senior guard Josiah Mobley (14.0 points per game), senior forward Zaveon Croff (11.0) and junior guard Julian Heckman (9.5) were leading the offense, with sophomore forward Jabari Mitchell and junior guards Jonye Madison and Martize Powell also playing key roles.
“(Madison has) been starting all year,” Moore said. “He brings us a guy we can move up the floor and can press and trap people. The last three or four games he’s played well offensively.”
After finishing seventh in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free at last season’s Division I state swimming and diving meet, senior Nate Gaver elected to compete in the 50 free and 100 breaststroke during the postseason this year.
Gaver was runner-up in the 50 free (21.18 seconds) on Feb. 13 in the sectional at Upper Arlington and was seeded second in the 50 free and ninth in the 100 breast heading into the district meet Feb. 21 at Bowling Green.
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 in Canton. The remaining state qualifiers were determined based on times from all district meets statewide.
Also qualifying for the boys were Max Hutson-Comeaux (500 free), Andrew Taulbee (100 butterfly and 100 breast), the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay.
At the sectional, Hutson-Comeaux, Gaver, Taulbee and Zion Jackson-Wilborn swam on the 200 free relay and Gaver, Hutson-Comeaux, Taulbee and Dhishan Kashyap were on the 400 free relay.
While the boys were third (191) in the sectional at UA behind the host Golden Bears (503) on Feb. 13, the girls were fifth (168) in the eight-team sectional Feb. 12 at UA behind champion Pickerington North (372).
Advancing to district for the girls were Kasey Lichtner (50 free and 100 fly), AnnaLiess Stith (100 breast), the 200 free relay and the 200 medley relay.
Lichtner and Stith were joined on both the 200 free relay and 200 medley relay by Araceli Gaver and Anna Haines.