ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The good news is Hillsboro wrestling coach Corey Burton has four returning state qualifiers from a team that last season won the Mid Central Activities Association title and the first regional championship in program history.
The bad news is he also lost four state qualifiers from that team. Gone are Ron Davis, Carson Greenhaw, Bri Ratzlaff and Wade Sorensen, who had a combined record of 121-25 last season.
“We’ll have some holes to fill,” Burton admitted. “We lost four good wrestlers, but we do have those four returning state qualifiers.”
Heading the list of returnees is James Bina, a senior who compiled a 33-9 record last season in the 151-pound weight class and was a regional runnerup. Burton expects Bina to move up a class to 160 pounds this season.
Ryan Janzen, a junior, was 23-14 last season and also finished second at regionals. Burton said Janzen will be back at his 119-pound weight this season.
Daniel Yoder, a regional runnerup at 125, finished with a 28-11 record. He will likely moved up at least one weight class and maybe more.
The fourth qualifier, Billy Winegarner placed fourth in regionals and compiled a 14-18 record wrestling at 160.
“He’ll be down one weight class from where he was last year,” Burton said. “He was kind of forced up to 160 with Carson at 145 and James at 152.”
Burton likes the foundation his team will have this season.
“We expect good things from those kids,” he said. “Those are the kids we need to make sure are placing at each tournament they go to. They need to win the big matches in our duals-and they need to set the tone for our practices.
“I know they have some goals for themselves as far as what they want to do by the end of the season,” he added. “They know they’re going to have to work hard to get them, so I expect that from them.”
Still, Burton acknowledges the holes in his lineup are significant when 14 weight classes are available. He has 15 wrestlers out this season, but doesn’t have a good spread in size. He expects to go without a wrestler at 103 pounds and probably 189 and 215.
“We have a few sophomores and juniors coming back that hopefully will find a way to slide into the lineup,” Burton said. “There’s always the problem that you have too many guys at one weight.
“We seem to have a lot of guys this year around the 140- to 150-pound weight class. We’ll see what those guys will do as far as separating themslves.”
Six members are freshmen, which adds to the challenge.
“We’re going to have a number of freshmen who have wrestled a bit, but not a lot,” Burton said. “They’re going to have to step in there and fill some varsity roles.
“That’s tough,” he added. “We’ve done that before in the past when we’re really heavy on freshmen. They’re going to get beat some this year, but it’s going to pay off in the next couple of years as long as they stick with it and work hard.”
Those returning from last year’s team with varsity experience are juniors Tim Glahn (12-17 varsity at 140 and 135) and Wade Kimbrel (5-10 at 135 and 130), and sophomores Michael Roble (0-5 at 171 and 160) and Ryan Kaiser (6-13 at 140 and 135) .
Even with several new faces and some open weight classes, Burton thinks his team will be competitive, and has a chance to repeat as league champions.
“League is wide open for us again his year,” he said. “Last year I thought it was real competitive between Nickerson and us, but Nickerson lost a lot to graduation. Lyons is going to bring in a good freshman class, which will make them pretty competitive right away.
“But if we wrestle well at league, we should be able to be right there toward the top. I don’t see anybody that we can’t compete with in our league right now.”
This year’s schedule is almost identical to last year’s. The biggest change will be that Hillsboro will host a large junior varsity tournament Jan. 4. The meet, formerly hosted by Hesston, could draw as many as 19 teams.
Burton said his four state qualifiers will form the cornerstone of this year’s team-in and away from competition.
“They’re pretty goal-oriented and pretty focused,” he said. “I know those kids are going to get into the wrestling rook and work hard and set the tone I need set-especially for our younger kids, who need to see what they’ve got to do to get where they need to be.”
The Trojans will open Dec. 5 with a double-dual meet at Stafford. Nickerson will also participate.