Wrestling: Thomas Worthington working to make strides under new coach
The Thomas Worthington wrestling team is under new leadership.
Ross Sandridge, who served as an assistant the past five seasons, has taken over for former coach Brad Todd. Todd stepped down after six seasons to spend more time with his family, but he's still with the Cardinals as an assistant coach.
Sandridge said one of his priorities is to make sure his team can weather the challenges presented by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to make sure that we can stay healthy and compete at the end of the year,” he said. “With COVID it’s a tough situation right now, but I think at the same time you just have to attack it day by day and make sure that you understand as far as preaching to your team that they can always control what they can control.
“And that’s coming to practice every day and working hard and just trying to get better and improve.”
Among the Cardinals' top wrestlers is senior Mason Gates (220 pounds), a two-time district qualifier. He’ll be joined by juniors Michael Blain (132), who went 1-2 at district last season, and Channing Thornton (120), who went 2-2 at district.
Sandridge said he has high hopes for Thornton this season.
“I’m looking for him to come through and perform very well at the end of this year,” Sandridge said.
Other top contributors include senior Majed Ahmad (170), juniors Brayden Jamison (195) and Charlie Erikson (126) and sophomore Jaden Fields (182). Sandridge said Fields could surprise some people.
“If there’s one person you’re looking at on the team, Jaden is probably one of them that is probably going to shock some people this year,” Sandridge said. “Not a really big name, no one really knows of him, but at the same time, he’s got the build and he’s definitely been working hard.”
Rounding out the roster are junior Xavier Thevenin (145), sophomore Ben Boley (138) and freshmen Isaiah Bowers (160) and J.J. Dodt (106).
The Cardinals only won one league dual last season, as they finished seventh (1-6) in the OCC-Cardinal Division, ahead of Kilbourne (0-7) and behind champion Delaware (7-0).
Sandridge said he’s hoping to change things as the Cardinals compete in a realigned OCC-Cardinal.
“I think this year is one of those years where we’re going to open some eyes,” he said. “I would love to go at least .500 or better in the OCC this year. This year we’re definitely going to turn some heads and make a name for ourselves, and hopefully going forward we can actually prove something. I think this year is going to be a good stepping stone going into next year.”
The Cardinals opened with a 45-27 win at Utica on Dec. 5 and competed at Marion Elgin on Dec. 12. Thomas is scheduled to open league action Jan. 7 at Dublin Jerome.
Third-year Kilbourne coach Jose Martinez hopes to continue developing his program, which includes nine freshmen this winter.
“We’ve got a lot of younger faces on the team this year, a lot of freshmen,” Martinez said. “But the good side is some of them have wrestled in our junior-high program. So I’m hoping in the next few years we’ll start seeing the work we’ve put in the youth and the junior-high (programs) coming up.”
Junior Iain Rojas, who competed at 152 pounds last year, projects to be the centerpiece of the roster. Rojas qualified for the Division I district tournament for the first time last season and went 1-2 to finish 23-18.
“He’s put in some time in the offseason,” Martinez said. “He’s probably going to be our No. 1 guy.”
Junior Malcolm Saas and sophomore James Culver also are expected to contribute.
Among the underclassmen Martinez expects to step forward are freshmen Jack Bialecki, Nolan Pham and Will Snyder.
“We’ve got a few guys there that wrestled last year that have come up that we’re hoping can step up,” Martinez said.
Rounding out the roster are senior Lamin Mansaray, juniors Alberto Pablo-Naredo and David Barone, sophomores Joseph Ortiz, Zachary Cahill and Brendan McGough and freshmen Brandon Reyes, Joe Perry, Connor Dunn, Yousuf Elalfi and Hizi Eltoum.
As of last week, Martinez said weight classes were still being determined.
After going winless in the OCC-Cardinal last season, Kilbourne is now in the OCC-Capital.
Martinez said the Wolves’ improvement will start from the ground up.
“From the beginning, we’re learning a lot. We’ve started real basic. We have a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomores,” Martinez said. “The goal is to get some mat time and get these guys better, get them caught up to speed. We’re planning for down the road.
“The game plan this year is to keep working on getting these guys some basics, keep working on getting them stronger, learning more, learning how to wrestle at the varsity level.”
The Wolves opened Dec. 3 with a tri-match at Galion Northmor, defeating Northmoor 40-39 and losing to Ontario 70-24.
Kilbourne is scheduled to open league competition against visiting Delaware on Jan. 7.
•Coach: Jose Martinez, third season
•Top athletes: Jack Bialecki, James Culver, Nolan Pham, Iain Rojas, Malcolm Saas and Will Snyder
•Key loss: Jay Thompson
•2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Delaware (7-0), Hilliard Darby (6-1), Hilliard Bradley (5-2), Dublin Jerome (4-3), Olentangy Berlin (3-4), Dublin Scioto (2-5), Thomas (1-6), Kilbourne (0-7)
•Postseason: Ninth at sectional, 31st at district
•Coach: Ross Sandridge, first season
•Top athletes: Majed Ahmad, Michael Blain, Charlie Erikson, Jaden Fields, Mason Gates, Brayden Jamison and Channing Thornton
•Key loss: Nick Harris
•Postseason: Seventh at sectional, tied for 32nd at district