Trojan wrestlers pin their hopes on seven senior leaders

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HHSwrestlingPB241040.jpg

Coach Scott O?Hare?s squad return 11 seniors and letter-winners for Hillsboro High?s 2008-09 wrestling season. Pictured are: front row (from left) Toby Jones, Tyler Jones, Nicholas Mueller, Robbie McClelland, Darren Mueller; back row, Aaron Bina, Jared King, John Hein, Gabe Anderson, Lonnie Benda. Not pictured: Dylan Delk.

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Hillsboro?s Nicholas Mueller battles to retain his balance during his opening match at the 2008 Class 3-2-1A state tournament in Hays. Mueller went 2-2 in his second appearance at state.

Coach Scott O?Hare graduated six talented seniors, including five state qualifiers, from last year?s Hillsboro High School wrestling team.

But don?t cry for him just yet.

O?Hare, now in his third year as head coach, returns three state qualifiers this winter and the senior class is seven strong.

?This is another pretty good senior class?six of the seven are going to be returning with quite a bit of varsity experience,? O?Hare said. ?Three of them are returning state qualifiers and two of them have been there twice.

?I think it?s going to be a pretty good year,? he added. ?I think we have the potential of doing some really good things again.?

As he looked ahead to this season, O?Hare said he wasn?t sure if those ?really good things? included dominating in dual meets again. Over the past year three seasons, the Trojans have compiled an enviable 38-2 record, including an undefeated season two years ago.

But O?Hare knew he couldn?t fill the two weight classes at the extreme ends of the lineup?103 pounds and 285 pounds.

?In duals, that?s going to make things a little more difficult because we?ll be giving up 12 points right off the top,? he said.

In addition, most of his returning athletes were bunched in three middle classes: 140, 145 and 152.

?I thought as a dual team this might be a rough year for us,? O?Hare said.

But as his team prepares for its opening meet on Thursday, it appears he will have 12 of the 14 weight classes filled after all?most of them with experienced wrestlers.

Top returners

Heading the Trojan lineup this winter will be those three returning state qualifiers: seniors Nicholas Mueller, Robbie McClelland and Tyler Jones.

Mueller, a two-time qualifier who went 37-6 last season at 135 pounds, will wrestle at 130 this season. He?s currently ranked among the top six in the state at the lighter weight class.

?He hasn?t grown a lot and has kept himself lean with cross country,? O?Hare said of Mueller?s ability to make a lighter class. ?He?s having to drop just a little bit of weight to get there?for himself and for the team.

?He could compete stronger in that category. We?re going to keep an eye on him and see how state pans out?according to who?s at 130 and who?s at 135?before we make a final decision.?

McClelland (10-6) actually began last season on the basketball team, but switched sports in time to qualify for state at 125 pounds. He, too, will drop a weight class this year, competing at 119 pounds.

Jones was 32-6 last season at 145, but will move up either to 152 or 160 this year. The other opening likely will be filled by (junior) Jared King, who competed at 140 last season.

?It depends on who chooses to make the commitment to get there,? O?Hare said of the 152-pound slot. ?Jared is a little closer to it right now, but Tyler would like to get down there?and he is ranked in the top six at 152 right now.?

In addition to qualifying for state last year, Mueller and Jones made the all-league first team and McClelland received honorable mention.

Also receiving honorable mention was John Hein, who wrestled heavier than his actual weight at 215 pounds.

?I think he?ll be a very solid competitor at 189 this year,? O?Hare said. ?Last year as a junior he had a very successful year at 215 even though he only weighed in at 185. He just couldn?t beat out (senior) Jacob Yoder at 189. So (this year) he?ll be back down to a weight that suits him.

?John has worked so hard in the off season,? O?Hare added. ?He?s so much stronger than he ever has been. He?s come a long way with hard work. He?s a very coachable kid and definitely a potential state qualifier.?

Also returning for O?Hare after a year?s absence is senior Toby Jones.

?Getting Toby Jones back this year is going to be a positive things for us,? O?Hare said. ?He wrestled for us as a sophomore and just about qualified for state. Then he transferred away his junior year, and now has come back. I think he?ll be in the mix there at 145 and will be a big addition for us.?

Rest of the lineup

The battle for the six remaining spots in the lineup is shaping up this way, according to O?Hare:

n 112 pounds. ?Brett Mueller is just a freshman, but he?s a kid who?s been wrestling for a number of years in our kids program and is part of a wrestling family. He had to drop just a little bit (of weight) to get into that class, but he?s doing a fine job.

n 125 pounds. ?The top runner will probably be (sophomore) Darren Mueller if he gets down to weight,? O?Hare said. ?I have a couple of others who might be filling in if he can?t get there. In that mix may be (junior) Dimitri McClelland and (sophomore) Justin King.?

n 135 pounds. ?This one is fairly wide open,? O?Hare said. ?(Sophomore) Dylan Delk is a returning letter-winner trying to get down there. (Junior) Matt Yoder is trying wrestling for the first time and is pretty aggressive. He?s got a lot to learn but he?s taking a lot of dedication to it and is working pretty hard to get down to 135.?

n 140 pounds. ?We?re hoping to get (sophomore) Aaron Bina in there. That?s another spot where Dylan Delk may be competing.?

n 171 pounds. ?(Senior) Lonnie Benda may try to get down to 160, but wrestled part-time varsity the past couple of years,? O?Hare said. ?He has grown quite bit from a year ago.?

n 215 pounds. ?(Senior) Gabe Anderson and (junior) Evan Just will be in the mix at 189, but what?s going to happen is that if one of them doesn?t make 189, he?ll wrestle at 215 most of the time,? O?Hare said.

Duals and tournaments

Even though the Trojans won?t be wrestling a full weight card at duals, O?Hare said other schools will be in a similar situation.

?We?ve been one of the few teams in the area that has been able to fill the lineup most of the time,? he said. ?We?re going to be seeing some other teams where we?re giving up two spots, but they might be as well.

?As we?ve been able to spread out more people, we?ll be having experience in most classes,? O?Hare added. ?We?re going to give up two weights but we have quality kids filling in throughout, so we?re going to make up a lot of those points, possibly.

?I?m certainly not discouraged from what I?ve seen the first week and a half in terms of our potential of getting kids in the right places. I think we can still be a pretty competitive dual team and tournament team now.?

In those multi-school tournaments, O?Hare feels he has enough experienced wrestlers competing to make an impact.

?I think we have the potential to put three, four, five guys in the finals of a lot of tournaments,? he said. ?I feel we?re going to be a very competitive tournament team.?

Experience edge

The experience on this year?s team has shown itself in preseason practices, O?Hare said.

?We?re ahead of where we were a year ago at this time?and we said the same thing last year and the year before that,? he said. ?If that?s the case, we?re showing obvious improvement.?

Experience also is being expressed in leadership.

?Right now I feel we have a lot of coaches in the (practice) room,? O?Hare said. ?With the size of our room, we have to wrestle a lot of groups of three, so there?s always two kids wrestling and one on the outside watching.

?But we?ve got them not just watching the group they?re in, but watching the other groups. We?re constantly hearing kids giving instructions to others to try to help them out.

Opening challenge

Hillsboro opens its season Thursday at Hoisington with dual matches involving the host school as well as Marion and Smoky Valley?the four toughest teams in the Mid-Central Activi?ties Association, according to O?Hare.

?Those have been the top teams the past few years, and we all face off the first night of the season,? he said. ?It?s happened three years in a row now. The league championship is probably going to be decided that night.?

The unfortunate thing about the early confrontation is that all four schools still will be trying to determine their final lineups.

?I may not have my kids at the weight they?re going to wrestle a little later in the season, and some of the other schools are going to be in the same spot,? O?Hare said. ?So we?re not truly going to match up strength for strength.?

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