ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With six wrestlers with state tournament experience returning, Hillsboro coach Corey Burton likes his team’s chances this season.
“That’s awfully nice,” said Burton, who has led the program since it was launched in 1995.
Five of those returners were among the eight Trojans who qualified for the Class 3A state tournament last season:
–Bri Ratzlaff, who qualified as a sophomore at 103 pounds and finished with a 22-9 season record and should wrestle at the same weight this season as a junior;
— Daniel Yoder, who was 17-13 as a freshman last season and qualified at 130 pounds, where he should wrestle again this season;
— James Bina, who, as a sophomore last season, was 32-12 at 140 pounds and is expected to wrestle this season at 152;
–Carson Greenhaw, who qualified at 145 pounds last season and compiled a 29-9 record as a junior; this season he will move up to the 160-pound class;
— Wade Sorensen, who qualified at 189 last season and compiled a 24-13 record as a junior; he will start this season wrestling in the 215-pound class, but may cut back to 189.
Add to that impressive list the return of a healthy Ron Davis, a senior who qualified for state as a sophomore and was ranked last season among the best wrestlers in Class 3A at 215 pounds. He was 21-1 with 17 pins before a knee injury prematurely ended his season.
Also returning is Ryan Janzen, who will wrestle at 125 pounds this season. Janzen was only one match away from qualifying for state last season as a freshman.
“We’ve got a good number of kids with good experience coming back and we’re going to count on those kids,” Burton said.
Gone this year to graduation are state qualifiers John Simms, Adam Jilka and Ryan Jilka. Their departure leaves the Trojans with some holes to fill among the 14 weight classes.
“We lost five seniors out of the lineup, and it hurts to lose that many, but I have some real good returning wrestlers,” Burton said. “These are good, quality kids. We’re just not going to have a solid lineup all the way through.”
That will hurt the Trojans most in dual meets, where the team excelled last season.
“We’re probably going to have two or three opens every dual,” Burton said. “We’ve got decent numbers with 17 wrestlers, but we’ve got a bunch of wrestlers in the 150-pound range, and we’ve got a bunch of big guys, but we’re a little thin at 135 and 189.”
Burton feels his team will still be as competitive in tournaments.
“I think we should be a better tournament team because we have a number of wrestlers who can make it to the finals and score good points and place. If they wrestle well individually, we’ll be just fine.”
Beyond the state qualifiers, others expected to fill out the card at this point in the season are a pair of freshmen, Lance Bartel at 119 and Jacob Daniels at 135, junior BillyWinegarner at 140, sophomores Tim Glahn at 145 and Tracy Jost, who returns at 171 after not wrestling as a freshman.
“We’ve got a large number of freshmen-six,” Burton said. “Those guys are all working hard, and a number of them have come in with wrestling experience.”
Burton is hopeful the Trojans can fill 12 of the 14 classes this season with some weight adjustments. One key decision yet to be made is at the heavier end of the scale with Davis and Sorensen. Burton said Davis, who came in from football at 248 points, would like to wrestle at 215, meaning that Sorensen would need to get down to 189, where he wrestled a season ago.
“(Davis) came in a little heavier this year than he did last year, so he’s going to see, as the year goes on, if he can can make 215,” Burton said. “We have to certify by Jan. 12 at the weight we want to wrestle at the rest of the year. We’re going to see how it goes through the month of December and make decisions then.”
Burton said Davis feels he could wrestle more effectively as 215.
“He feels like he gives up a height advantage,” Burton said of Davis, who is 5-8. “He gives up a height advantage, too, at 215, but they’re not as big and strong as heavyweights are. He doesn’t like giving up that height advantage, plus 20 or 30 pounds on top of that.”
Burton said Davis is stronger than last year, and that might make a difference.
“His upper body has gotten a lot stronger,” Burton said. “That’s why we want him to start out wrestling at heavyweight. He might be able to handle it. That’s what we need to find out early.”
Sorensen, meanwhile, is only five pounds off the 189 target, but he’s also grown a little bit from last season, which may make it more difficult to cut the weight.
“Those are big weight decisions we have to make next month,” Burton said.
The Trojan mentor is pleased with preseason practice.
“It’s going real well,” he said. “They’re working real hard. We have only two new kids who have never wrestled-(freshmen) Ryan Kaiser and Jordan Allen. So we’re able to move along at a pretty good pace. We don’t have to spend a lot of time one-on-one, showing new moves. We’re able to drill pretty well right now.”
This season, Burton is emphasizing setting personal goals.
“We’re trying to focus on individual, concrete, obtainable goals and the activities that help them reach their goals,” Burton said. “That includes classroom and personal goals as well as wrestling goals.”
Last season, the Trojans hosted three dual meets as well as regionals. This season, they will only have one dual meet at home. The Mid Central Activities Association meet will be in Hillsboro this season, though.
Burton likes his team’s chances of winning its third MCAA title in four seasons. Six of the 10 MCAA schools have wrestling programs.
“We were first three years ago, second two years ago and first last year,” he said. “We should be right up there again if we have everybody healthy.
“The key at league tournament is that you fill the weight classes,” he added. “So we’re going to have to make sure we can fill 12 weight classes in order to do it that day. We’ve got 11 classes filled today, so we’ve got to spread some guys a little bit.”
103: Bri Ratzlaff, junior. 112: Open. 119: Lance Bartel, freshman. 125: Ryan Janzen, sophomore. 130: Daniel Yoder, sophomore. 135: Jacob Daniels, freshman. 140: Billy Wineganer, junior. 145: Tim Glahn, sophomore; Jeremy Klose, freshman; Ryan Kaiser, freshman. 152: James Bina, junior. 160: Carson Greenhaw, senior; Michael Roble, freshman. 171: Tracy Jost, sophomore. 189: Open. 215: Wade Sorensen, senior. 275: Ron Davis, senior; Cody Pankratz, sophomore; Jordan Allen, freshman.