Hillsboro wrestling coach Scott O’Hare says a little losing now will increase his team’s chances of winning later.
By “losing,” he’s referring to weight reduction.
“We’ve got some kids working pretty hard to get some weight off so they can compete in a lower weight class,” O’Hare said. “We probably won’t be there by our first matches, but I’m hoping by Christmas we might be close to filling all but two weight classes.”
That’s a pretty good outcome considering a full lineup has 14 weight classes and O’Hare’s total roster numbers 15 athletes.
“My numbers are down a little bit overall,” he said. “I’d like to be getting closer to that 20 range because the more we have in the (practice) room, the tougher we’re going to be.”
A roster of 15 is actually an improvement from the team’s initial meeting, when only 13 athletes showed up.
“We were really thin in the lower weights,” O’Hare said.
Then, two more athletes—freshman Jake Jost and sophomore Mitchell Day—made a late decision to come out and are expected to fill the slots at 112 and 119 pounds, respectively.
“I’m pleased they made the decision to come out, and they seem to be pleased, too,” O’Hare said.
If the weight-loss goals can be accomplished, O’Hare said the Trojans would have open classes only at 103 and 140 pounds.
Having 12 of the 14 classes filled will make a huge difference in duals. An empty slot costs a team six points through forfeiture if the other team has a wrestler ready to go.
Last year, the Trojans usually had four vacancies in the lineup en route to a 7-7 season record in duals.
“Going 7-7 when you’re giving up 24 points wasn’t a bad finish for us,” O’Hare said. “If you go by matches actually wrestled on the mat, we were probably closer to 11-3.”
At this point in the preseason, the Trojan roster fills out this way: Jost at 112; Day and freshman River Cecil at 119; senior Darren Mueller at 125; junior Bret Mueller at 130; freshman Cody Delk at 135; senior Justin King at 145; senior Matthew Wiebe and sophomore Tanner Jones at 160; senior Aaron Bina and exchange student Nadari Lomidze at 171; senior Dylan Delk and exchange student Diego Castillo at 189; senior Daniel Kenney at 215; and freshman Matt Reeh at 285.
Bina returns as a two-time state qualifier. Darren Mueller, Bret Mueller and King were each one win from qualifying for state last season.
O’Hara’s biggest weight dilemma so far this year is between Bina and Delk, two of his top wrestlers.
“They came into practices virtually weighing the same, and have stayed that way—they’re losing weight at exactly the same rate,” O’Hare said. “It will depend whether one of those guys can get to 160, and it’s going to be a pretty good drop for either one of them to do it. They both came in at a little over 180.
“If neither one of them make it to 160, then one of them will have to jump all the way to 189. They’ll be giving up some weight to their opponent.”
Though his team should field a competitive lineup for team-vs.-team duals, O’Hare isn’t sure how it will fare in the large bracket tournaments.
He expects his five returning letter-winners—the Mueller brothers, King, Bina and Delk—to place well. But O’Hare is unsure what to expect from his less-experienced wrestlers.
“Going into practice I was really concerned where we were, experience-wise,” he said. “I still feel last year we lacked some physical and mental toughness, and I was a little concerned how that would be with the kids we have coming back.
“A couple of days into practice, I started feeling a lot better,” he added. “Our work in practice has been really solid. The kids have been getting in a lot of good reps. The more reps they get, the quicker they’re going to progress.
“And I’m seeing a higher level of physical and mental toughness. Certainly some lack it, and if they don’t step up it’s going to be a brutal year for them because others are just going to keep banging on them.”
With the formation of the Central Kansas League comes the return of a league tournament. The past few years the Mid-Central Activities Association champion was determined by team records in duals against league schools.
Seven of the 10 schools in the CKL will have teams at the first league tournament Feb. 12 at Pratt. O’Hare sees Halstead, Lyons and Smoky Valley as the early favorites.
“It’s a pretty deep league,” O’Hare said “We’ve really got some good teams in the league right now, which will give us some nice competition.”
New home tournament
One totally new development on this year’s schedule is the inaugural Marion County Dual Tournament, set for Dec. 17, with Hillsboro and Marion sharing the role of host school.
The 12 participating schools will be divided into four pools of three teams. Two pools will compete at each site. Each school will wrestle against the other two schools in its pool.
The top two teams from each of the four pools will advance to an eight-team bracket tournament at Marion. The four remaining teams will compete in a round-robin format at Hillsboro. In the end, teams will be placed one through 12.
Next year, the site location for the finals will be reversed.
In addition to the main event, junior-varsity matches will be wrestled at each location.
“It’ll be an interesting format,” O’Hare said. “We’re anxious to see how smoothly it goes with the transition of teams from school to school. A lot of the schools that are coming like the idea of getting both the varsity and JV kids some matches.
“The goal would be to rival the Trojan Classic basketball tournament someday,” he added. “We’re going to try to do it up right, but we don’t want to go all out the first year. We’ll see how things go, and then build on it.”
The Trojans open their season Dec. 2 against tough competition when they travel to Halstead to take on the Dragons and Minneapolis in a double-dual format. Matches begin at 5:30 p.m.