Wawasee’s Brian Clark controls Rory Nolin of Warsaw during action from the Plymouth Sectional last season (File photo by Mike Deak)
Young appears to be the buzzword this season on the area prep wrestling scene.
Most local teams will look to gain varsity experience as the campaign progresses with an eye
towards the state tournament.
Warsaw opened its season last Saturday by going 2-2 in its own invitational, which featured state
runner-up Crown Point.
Wawasee will commence acton Saturday by hosting its own Super Duals, which will include Whitko.
Following is a glance at area teams.
Warriors To Face Grueling December Slate
Wawasee is facing an interesting start to its season.
After wading through a manageable November, the Warriors will certainly earn its checks the first through 15th of December.
Three Super Duals on consecutive Saturdays beginning at LaPorte on the first has Wawasee wrestling 18 teams in 15 days tossing in a roadie at perennial power Goshen and home matches against rivals Concord and Warsaw.
Head coach Paul Meyer will certainly know what his team has to offer as Wawasee heads into the holiday break following the Wawasee Super Duals on Dec. 15.
“That stretch of matches in December is brutal, but we’ll definitely see what our kids are made of wrestling that level of competition,” Meyer said. “We are going to see some really good teams in that stretch. But we have to maintain some confidence when we face a Goshen. Then deal with a long weekend a couple days later. I feel this group can get through it, we just have to be mentally tough, and understand we can beat anyone on any given day.”
If the schedule wasn’t enough, Wawasee is in a major reloading effort that has five of the ten wrestlers at the Plymouth Sectional last year gone, but the five returning all made the regional level.
Nick Rozow, shown wrestling Skyler Kanode of Warsaw during the NLC Tournament last season, is one of the key returnees for Wawasee (File photo by Mike Deak)
Seniors Brian Clark and Chad Eppley both were runners-up at 182 and 220 pounds, respectively. Senior Doug Corl was third at 126 pounds and classmate Nick Rozow was fourth at 160. Junior Jake Sumpter advanced at 145 in fourth place.
The lone returner that did not wrestle at Plymouth is junior Michael Pena, who suffered injuries throughout his sophomore season.
Meyer will need to put the pieces together with a host of newcomers, including nine freshmen and several sophomores and juniors will little to no high school experience. With mat work in the preseason still to determine who rises to the big stage, Meyer has been impressed nonetheless with his new crop.
“The kids that you will see as freshmen, I had them at the middle school level,” Meyer said, who coached middle school wrestling before coming to WHS. “They know what I expect, and they know what I don’t expect. I don’t expect them to give up, I expect them to give everything they’ve got when the step on the mat, no matter if they are wrestling a state champ or not. The other guys has to put his shoes on just like we do.”
Warsaw Looks To Improve
The Tigers will look for improvement as the season progresses with just a handful of lettermen back from last year’s team.
The key trio returning for coach Justin Smith’s squad are senior Luis Munoz (120), junior Luis Cervantes (126) and sophomore Ben Plummer heavyweight). All three were regional qualifiers last season with Plummer earned a runner-up finish at sectional.
The big loss for the Tigers, who finished 7-14 overall and 2-5 in the NLC, was Jarred Brooks. Brooks claimed a state championship at 113 by posting a perfect 35-0 record last season.
“We are young this year, so first of all I am looking for improvement throughout the year,” said coach Smith, whose team was runner-up to Culver Academies in the Plymouth Sectional. “We only have five kids returning that lettered last year. However, even though we are young, I look for us to compete in the sectional and send as many wrestlers as we can to the regional and semi-state. A bonus would be to finish in the top four in the conference.”
Whitko Looks To Senior Trio
The Wildcats will count on seniors to lead the way this winter.
Key returnees in South Whitley include senior Greg Newman at 113, a semi state qualifier last season. Also back are fellow senior Colton LeTourneau at 132 and Ian Pherigo at 170. Both earned regional berths last season.
The Wildcats posted a 13-16 mark during the 2011-12 campaign. Key losses included state qualifier Cody Bays and semi state participants Chas Busz and Austin LeTourneau.
“Being a young team we must improve everyday while staying mentally tough,” said Whitko coach Frank Bumgardner. “We are going to have to learn to be competitive with the better teams in the state, and eventually look to beat those teams.”
Triton Youthful Bunch
The Trojans will be led by Joseph Soriano (106), DJ Riffle (126), Jessi Burkholder (132), Grant Stichter (152), Nate Spangle (145) and Justin Hefner (285).
“All six of these guys have put in the time and are ready to step it up this year,” said Triton coach Ron Brown. “Soriano is a guy on the edge of great things. He’s a strong, athletic kid who has been able to hang with some great wrestlers – I’m hoping in his senior season he can turn that corner and become one of those great wrestlers.”
“Heavyweight Justin Hefner will anchor the team and we can expect consistency and leadership from him for the big guys. DJ Riffle has seen very limited action the last two seasons due to injuries, but we’re hoping this is his year. Grant is extremely athletic, explosive, and never stops working.
“Nate Spangle could be a real surprise this year. He should be able to outthink his opponents and could really surprise some people. Jessi is the epitome of a hard-nosed kid who refuses to slow down on the mat.
“The rest of the lineup will be young. Regardless, I am optimistic about what we have right now and for the future.
“I expect us to improve and gain experience each and every week. We are a very young team. But, we are also made up of a group of athletes that love to be challenged. Our goals this year are simple. To work hard and represent our school and community well.”