Notebook: Westerville North wrestling team seeing benefits of longer preseason

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
North's Sylvester Bockarie (top) defeated Central's Tate Sterling in a match at 160 pounds on Jan. 9. Bockarie has helped the Warriors jump out to a strong start in the OCC-Capital Division.

After winning the OCC-Buckeye Division championship a year ago, the Westerville North wrestling team is competing in the OCC-Capital and enjoying similar success.

The Warriors defeated Franklin Heights 73-6 on Dec. 30 and Westerville South 72-9 on Jan. 7. Their next league match is Jan. 21 at home against Big Walnut.

“The league is a little different for us with teams like Delaware, Dublin Scioto (and) Worthington Kilbourne just to start,” coach David Grant said. “We just have to come out ready for each match. It won’t be easy by any means.”

Against South, Brennan Albertini (195 pounds), Sylvester Bockarie (152), Evan Butcher (113), Connor Euton (145), Jake Gooding (126), Jon Grant (160) and Gabe Ohle (120) all won by pin. Winning by forfeit were Nico Candido (182), Christian Hunt (106), Thomas Kolbe (170), Bryce Long (220) and Jonny Verduga (132).

“I think it’s going extremely well for how much time we lost (to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic),” Bockarie said. “We’ve been training harder than ever and we’ve been getting ready for the postseason. We want to keep pushing and be the best we can be.”

North didn’t start the season until the Franklin Heights match because of the pandemic, but Albertini said the Warriors made the most of their extended preseason.

“I think it helped us get our cardio up and help us be better prepared now that the matches have started,” he said. “There are going to be more matches in a week than we’re used to (in the coming weeks).”

Coach Grant said his philosophy was turning a negative into a positive to make his wrestlers tougher mentally and physically.

“We made it help us,” he said. “We took that time we were given and we kept training. Some of the guys had to train on their own at some point. We did a good job of that and we took advantage of the situation.”

In the opening round of district competition in the Division I state duals, the third-seeded Warriors lost 56-16 at second-seeded Dublin Coffman on Jan. 13. Euton and Gooding won by pin and Butcher won by major decision. 

•The Central wrestling team has had several strong individual performances despite a lack of preparation, according to coach Jerry McSwords. 

“The thing that was crazy for us was not practicing,” he said. “We didn’t practice from Nov. 20 until Dec. 18. We weren’t allowed to practice or do anything with the kids. We had just got in a rhythm of practice and that was knocked out by the district. … We’ve been blessed so far that we’ve been able to do as much as we have.” 

The Warhawks were 7-6 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio before facing Grove City on Jan. 14. 

Central, which opened league action with a 54-13 win over Pickerington North on Jan. 7, will play host to Gahanna on Jan. 21. 

Before facing Grove City, Logan Moore was 12-1 at 170, Gary Steele was 9-1 at 152, Tate Sterling was 9-4 at 160 and Josiah Mair was 8-2 at 220. 

Zeke Healy, who was expected to be a state contender at 195 but has missed time with a labrum injury sustained during football season, was 2-0 in limited action. 

“Zeke is banged up and I don’t know if he’ll finish the season,” McSwords said. 

—Frank DiRenna 

•The Central boys bowling team, which features a combination of boys and girls, has had some early season success. 

“We’ve gotten a lot better,” coach Tony Gonzalez said. “I’m really impressed with how far they’ve come. They’re jelling together, feeling better. Especially the girls moving over to the boys side, they’ve gotten more comfortable, so I’m really happy with where we’re at.” 

The Warhawks competed in the 16-team Jim Shaw Baker Challenge on Jan. 9 at Holiday Lanes. 

Central advanced to championship play after finishing sixth (2,243) during pool play before losing to Whitehall 2-0 in a best-of-three Baker series semifinal. 

The Warhawks finished seventh (2,996) in the 32-team Holiday Baker Marathon Tournament on Jan. 10 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace, advancing to championship play before losing to eventual champion Fairport Harding 2-1 in a best-of-three Baker series opening-round match. 

Central, which was 1-2 in the COHSBC-A before facing Marysville on Jan. 13, also beat Big Walnut 2,249-2,186 on Jan. 6. 

Before facing Marysville, Zack Smock led Central with a 210.7 average, followed by Kyle Richardson (200.7), Payton Hartgrove (177.2) and Logan Henslee (167.5). 

“We’re trying to get as much experience for these kids as they try to blend together,” Gonzalez said. “We knew it was going to be busy. With some of the cancellations in December and adding some in January, it just packed it in a little bit more.” 

—Frank DiRenna 

South's Nikita Kitaev battles Central Crossing's Oliver Savage in a 113-pound match earlier this season. The Wildcats were 1-5 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital before facing Delaware on Jan. 14.

•The South wrestling team is looking to gain momentum for the postseason. 

The Wildcats were 1-5 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital before facing Delaware on Jan. 14. 

“Our numbers are a little lower than normal because of (COVID-19),” said coach George Crooks, whose team defeated Ready 36-30 on Dec. 30. “We have a young team. We fill varsity spots with some kids who are younger and would probably do better if they didn’t have to wrestle varsity. We have a few really good ones who at the end of the season might look pretty good.” 

The Wildcats opened league action Jan. 7 with a 72-9 loss to North. 

“Westerville North is tough,” Crooks said. “They have a good thing going there.” 

Fuanyi Fobellah, who was a state qualifier last season, was 3-0 in limited action at 138. 

Tyler O’Reilly was 5-1 at heavyweight. 

“We’re always in a tough division,” Crooks said. “Hopefully, we become one of the tough teams in the division one of these days. We take it as it comes. We have good kids and they’re giving it their best.” 

—Frank DiRenna 

•The season for the South boys bowling team has been highlighted by beating its two Westerville rivals. 

The Wildcats defeated North 1,889-1,488 on Jan. 7 and Central 2,234-1,905 on Jan. 11, both at Columbus Square Bowling Palace. 

South was 2-1 in the COHSBC-A before facing Big Walnut on Jan. 13. 

Henry Tran led the Wildcats against North with a 353 two-game series, followed by Ethan Gary with a 317. 

Dominic Candella had a 417 against Central, followed by Gary (379), Tran (377) and Justin Anthony (375).

Candella had a team-high 192 average. 

The girls team, which was 2-0 in the COHSBC-A before facing Big Walnut, defeated North 1,844-1,295 as Taylor Hughes led the Wildcats with a 412 series. She was followed by Jessica Applegate (327) and Alexzandria Stewart (321). 

Hughes had a team-best 189.3 average. 

“We’ve done pretty good so far this year,” coach Jamie West said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, a lot of room for improvement. The kids are working hard and there’s a lot of improvement out of some kids that we weren’t really expecting to step up so quick.” 

—Frank DiRenna

•Kristen Hershberger will be the new North girls volleyball coach, pending school board approval.

She will replace Amanda Mosely, who left after three seasons.

Hershberger spent eight seasons at West Jefferson, where she went 126-62 and won four league championships.

"We’re very excited to bring someone like Kristen into our girls volleyball program,” athletics director Wes Elifritz said. “With her experience as a player and coach, she's going to help put Westerville North girls volleyball back to where we want it. She’ll definitely love our girls, but she’ll also bring a needed accountability that will help us get back to success as early as this fall.”

Hershberger played collegiately at Capital and in high school at Massillon Jackson.

Last season, the Warriors finished 2-17 overall and placed seventh (2-12) in the OCC-Capital behind champion Scioto (14-0).

—Scott Hennen

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