ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With at least four out of a program record six state qualifiers returning this season, Marion wrestling coach Chad Adkins is pleased with the way his fledgling program is developing.
“It’s slowly building,” Adkins said. “We’re now getting to the point where we’re going to be seeing a lot of success.”
Those expectations for success start with junior Steven Boone, a state qualifier each of his first three seasons and the team’s pace setter.
“I’m excited about Steven Boone,” Adkins said. “He’s only a junior, and at 171-the same weight class as last year-he has the possibility of placing for sure at state.
“He lost a couple of matches at the state tournament last year that he very easily could have won,” Adkins said.
“This ought to be his break-out year. If he works like he should, the sky’s the limit with him. He’s got all the technique, all the power.
“He staying at the same weight class, and a lot of the guys he wrestled with are going to be moving up. He should be one of the strongest kids in the state at 171. He’s going to have to work at it, but he’s got all the opportunity in the world.”
Adkins said he thinks each his returning qualifiers has a chance to grab a medal at state, but Boone and Thad Looper may have the best opportunity.
“It kind of depends on how he goes through the season,” Adkins said. “He’s got the ability. He went to a camp this summer and learned some new techniques.”
At the lightest end of the scale is Chelsea Arnhold, who wrestled in the 103-pound class and became only the third girl ever to qualify for the state tournament a year ago.
“She’s stronger this year and learned a few more techniques at camp this summer,” Adkins said. “She’ll be a contender. It’s all going to be in how she approaches things. She’s got the positive attitude, though.”
The Warriors’ fourth qualifier is Chris Freeby, who may be a class or two heavier this season.
“He’s heavier this year, so he’ll have some new challenges,” Adkins said.
Evan Sharp, a fifth qualifier, is injured and may not be back this season.
Heading the list of other returning letter-winners is Zac Ewert, a senior who just missed qualifying for state.
“He should have qualified last season, but he’s got a good chance of making it again this season,” Adkins said.
Though Adkins said he likes the athletes he has coming back this season, he feels the future looks bright, too.
“I’m really excited about a couple of freshmen,” he said. ” Casey Nelson was really successful in middle school and is looking good so far. Dale Coe and Gavin Moore-they’re all freshmen, so we’ve got a lot of good years with them.”
Adkins also welcomed the return of Tyson Heidebrecht, who wrestled in middle school but played basketball last year as a freshman.
“He’s back wrestling now, so that’s a plus,” Adkins said. “He’s a good, quality kid.
“They’re just a good group of kids. They’ve all got a positive attitude. They all want to be champions, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t be.”
Even with 19 athletes out, Adkins said his team will probably have to leave a couple of weight classes open. Still, the spread of his wrestlers is “much better than in the past.”
He feels the kids club and middle-school programs are paying off.
“The more experience they get when they’re young, the less we have to teach them from step one (when they reach high school),” he said.
“That’s the biggest difference. For the first time, we can come in wrestling from the start. We don’t have to begin at the very bottom (with the basics). That’s a plus for everybody because you don’t have to slow practice down.”
The Warriors’ schedule is about the same as last season’s, except for the addition of a dual with Flinthills on Jan. 28 and a tournament at Chase County the weekend before regionals.