ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
by Tom Stoppel
The Free Press
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a state-caliber wrestling program. But the construction crew has been busy the past five years in Marion.
In his sixth year, and thanks to a successful kids wrestling program, coach Chad Adkins is finally seeing the quality numbers he hopes will eventually put Marion on the state map in wrestling.
“The biggest advantage I have, having been here for five years, is that the kids’ program is starting to kick some kids into the high school and middle school programs,” Adkins said.
“Our numbers are up, and those mainly are kids who already know the basics of wrestling, so that’s a huge advantage.”
Adkins has 31 wrestlers this year, including five from Peabody-Burns High School, which entered into a cooperative agreement with the Warriors this season.
“This not only helps us at dual meets, but it also really makes a difference at our practices and with competition in general,” Adkins said. “Kids now have to earn their way on to the varsity instead of just having it handed to them because they meet the weight qualification.”
With higher numbers come higher expectations.
“We’d like to qualify at least eight kids for the state tournament-I think we can and it would be awesome if we did,” Adkins said. “Our goal is to compete for the trophy at every meet, including regionals. Down the road, we’d like to compete for state titles.”
As with any established program, senior leadership is key to successful. The Warrior’s have four seniors to lead the way.
Adam Depler (189 pounds) is Marion’s lone returning state qualifier, having placed sixth at state last season.
“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached,” Adkins said. “He’s a big, strong kid who works really hard and is very determined.”
Casey Nelson (171) is still looking for his first trip to Hays, having missed qualifying last year by one match.
“He will be a state qualifier this year,” Adkins said. “Casey is a pretty tough and determined kid.”
Gavin Moore (152) returns after missing last season due to a broken wrist suffered in a moto-cross mishap.
“He and Casey were equal in talent the year before, so he has a lot of skill,” Adkins said. “He went out for cross country just in the last three weeks and almost qualified for the state meet. So he’s a talented athlete and will be a great addition to our team this year.”
The fourth senior is heavyweight Shawn Britton.
“Shawn was in a car accident and cracked a couple of vertebrae, but he’s going to be able to wrestle after the Christmas break,” Adkins said. “He should really be a big help when he returns.”
Also expected to add to the Warriors’ success is a trio of juniors: John Barr (145), Riley Ross (119) and Ben Leppke (160).
“Those three guys are hard workers,” Adkins said. “Riley and John do a lot of good things and Ben has the ability of doing a lot if he cuts down on his mistakes.
Several sophomores figure into the mix as well.
“Charlie Holub (130) was just one match away from going to state last year,” Adkins said. “He’s a really tough kid who had a lot of wins last year.”
“Hank Collett (125) has gotten a lot stronger since last season,” Adkins said. “Most of our kids have really benefitted from work in the weight room.”
Other sophomores battling for positions are Logan Richmond and Thomas McGee.
Freshmen vying for spots include Tyler Slater, Brad Klenda and Frankie Clark.
“Tyler has experience in our kids program and Brad is recovering from a knee injury in football,” Adkins said. “We’re waiting to see how he progresses.
“Frankie is a really tough girl who’s comparable to Chelsea (Arnhold), but she’ll have to wrestle in a little heavier weight class than Chelsea did, so that will make it a little tougher.”
Although 22 of the 31 wrestlers are either sophomores or freshmen, Adkins is excited about the prospects.
“In those kids we have a lot of experience, plus our freshman class next year is going to be the biggest we’ve ever had. I think our numbers will keep increasing.”
Adkin said winning and losing isn’t the end-all of wrestling.
“I hope when people think of Marion wrestling, they think about our sportsmanship and being competitive in every match,” he said. “All of our kids, even against better opponents, expect to go out there and win.
“But just being on the mats teaches kids self-discipline,” he added. “The kids know if they win or lose, they have themselves to credit for it-they learn a lot about hard work and determination.”
Marion’s season starts tomorrow (Dec. 1) with a triple dual at Hillsboro.
“These kids just need to work on being ready to wrestle for six minutes,” Adkins said. “Fortunately, we don’t have to start at step one and teach them everything. We just need to get the rust knocked off.
“I may be biased, but I think these kids are the hardest working kids around,” he added. “To me, Marion wrestling represents hard work and determination and the team concept.
“Wrestling is an individual sport, but it also has a team aspect. If they buy into that team aspect, they help each other improve and our success is better, both individually and as a team.”