Quantity is still on the low side, but Hillsboro coach Scott O’Hare likes the quality of athletes that comprise this year’s wrestling team.
“The (weight class) positions we fill make for a pretty strong team,” O’Hare said. “The only problem is that is a small portion of the lineup. But it will be a strong part.”
O’Hare has 12 athletes to fill the 14 weight classes. Considering the inexperience of some wrestlers and the overlap at some weights, the Trojan lineup could have as many as five or six vacancies.
That many potential forfeits will make it hard to win many duals. But the Trojan mentor, now in his 10th year at the helm, said the quality of his athletes should make his team competitive in tournaments.
“I think we can be pretty competitive because I believe the weights we are going to fill will have kids who could get into the medal round and even the finals,” he said. “That’s really where our tournament points will come from.
“It’s going to come down to how well we can get them spread out in those weights and where they can still wrestle strong and healthy.”
At the core of O’Hare’s team are seniors Tyrell Thiessen and Tanner Jones.
“Those two guys are the two returning state qualifiers, which puts them in a good position to get back there and have a chance to come out of there with some goals met,” O’Hare said.
Thiessen, who will compete in the 285-pound class again this year, has been hampered in the early going by an ankle sprain suffered in football.
“He wants to get in there and work, but we’re starting to realize that every time he does there’s that chance of it going again,” O’Hare said. “We need to play that smart early in the season and make sure we get him full strength at the end.”
Jones, who weighed around 180 at the end of football, likely will wrestle in the 170-pound class and may get down to 160.
“Our goal right now is to get to 170 and see how he’s wrestling there,” O’Hare said.
“Both of those guys have tremendous upside and both could have very successful seasons,” O’Hare said of his seniors. “We’re not going to sell ourselves short of expecting a state medal at the end of the year. Our goal is to make it to a state championship match.
“I’ll try to give them everything they need to help them get there, but whether they actually do is up to them.”
Three juniors return this season: Cody Delk, Preston Nelson and Matt Reeh.
“The one returning with the most experience is probably Cody Delk,” O’Hare said. “He missed the better part of his freshman year because of injury. Really, last year was his first full season in high school varsity matches. He finished around .500, which was OK for a sophomore.”
Delk likely will wrestle this year at 152 or 145.
“He’s making some good progress,” O’Hare said. “His technique’s right there. We just need to kind of put everything together.”
Preston Nelson likely will compete at 138 or 145.
“He was in and out last year for a variety of reasons,” O’Hare said. “He’s one of those kids who has a tremendous upside because he’s very athletic, very explosive, very competitive and very hardnosed and stubborn.
“He’s got a lot of the traits that can make him a very good wrestler. What he lacks probably more than anything is just good, strong technique. If we can continue to improve his technique and get him well-conditioned, he could be pretty dangerous.”
Matt Reeh will be challenging Thiessen at 285 this season.
“That’s going to be a tall task,” O’Hare said. “But he’s a very good practice partner for Tyrell, and it’s going to help Matt develop. When Tyrell graduates I think Matt will be ready to take over that role and do a nice job. He’s progressed tremendously over the past couple of years.”
Sophomores Jon Carey and Jesse Meier are likely to see significant varsity action again this season after wrestling varsity most of last season as freshmen.
“That’s always a tough task,” O’Hare said. “It may have been a little easier in Jon’s case because he was a lighter weight, so he was meeting up with some other underclassmen.”
This season, Carey is projected for the 120-pound class and Meier is in the mix at 152.
“Jesse was actually having to wrestle up in weight already as a freshman,” O’Hare said. “I did pull those guys out of some varsity meets and wrestled them in junior varsity meets. Both saw some nice success there.”
Thanks in part to some off-season experiences, “both of those guys are way ahead of where they were a year ago,” O’Hare said.
The four freshmen on the roster could gain some varsity experience as they and the season progress.Heading the list is newcomer Austin Cross, who is projected to compete at 138 or 145. He began wrestling in Newton’s kids club, then continued competing when his family moved to Ohio, a strong wrestling state.
“He had a pretty successful junior high career, but he’s still a freshman,” O’Hare said. “We’re still figuring out what he can do and working with him in terms of the style of wresting we do and what he’s done before—and trying to mesh the two.
“I think he will find a place in the varsity lineup and I think he will surprise some people because he’s somebody nobody knows. He’s a very talented wrestler and been around it his whole life.”
The other three freshmen, Franklin Jost, Zac Ghahremanzadeh and Levi Mendoza all fall in the 170 or 182 range and have limited wrestling experience. They likely will start the year in junior varsity matches.
“Hopefully by late season we’ll have them moving in the direction we need them for the future for us,” O’Hare said.
The Trojans will make two home appearances this season—both before Christmas. They will open the season Nov. 29 with a home double dual versus Halstead and Minneapolis.
Two weeks later, Dec. 14, they compete in the Marion County Dual Tournament hosted by Hillsboro and Marion.