Injuries deplete wrestling roster

Mac Bartel, shown here about to take on an opponent from Wellington at last season’s Marion County Dual Tournament, is the lone senior who returns this season with significant experience on the mat. Bartel came close to qualifying for state last season, and is expected to compete at 120 pounds this season once he recovers from a leg injury.
Mac Bartel, shown here about to take on an opponent from Wellington at last season’s Marion County Dual Tournament, is the lone senior who returns this season with significant experience on the mat. Bartel came close to qualifying for state last season, and is expected to compete at 120 pounds this season once he recovers from a leg injury.
Hillsboro wrestling coach Scott O’Hare will begin his 15th season at the helm with a roster coincidence that would make most coaches happy.

“We have 10 on the roster, eight from Hillsboro and two coming over from Canton-Galva this year,” O’Hare said. “The nice thing that will, or could be, is if we get everybody healthy and back on the mat, we could fill 10 different weight classes with the 10 athletes that we have. They’re spread out pretty well.”

While that’s an ideal situation for dual meets, the possibility of experiencing team success this year faces some significant challenges.

At the top of the list is injuries. Two of O’Hare’s top returning wrestlers, senior Mac Bartel, slated for the 120-pound class, and sophomore Raymond Johnston (132) are both recovering from leg injuries. Bartel may be ready to compete after the holidays, but Johnston’s ability to return at any point this season is uncertain.

“It’s looking like Mac probably won’t be able to go until after Christmas,” O’Hare said. “I’ve got him slotted in at 120 pounds right now, and he has the opportunity to go down to 113. He’s thinking about that, anyway. Before he hurt his leg, he looked pretty good and was off to a pretty good start for us.”

Johnston, meanwhile, barely missed qualifying for state as a freshman last season. He suffered a significant football injury this fall that could have cost him part of his lower leg, but it has sidelined him indefinitely.

“My best wrestler coming back, and with the most experience, would be Ray­mond,” O’Hare said. “He’s back, off crutches and out of the boot—but he’s still not released to do any full movement on it yet. He’s basically doing physical therapy right now.

“We’re hoping that after the holidays we might get him back in the practice room, but a lot of it is going to depend on how comfortable he is about it. Right now he’s a little hesitant about going on (his leg) without giving it more heal time.”

A second challenge O’Hare faces is inexperience on the mat—particularly among his senior class, no less.

“By far our most experienced wrestler, and the one who would stand out most would be Mac—if we can get him back healthy,” O’Hare said. “He’s a particularly strong, pretty athletic and just really tough kid.”

Jaden Priest would have brought significant experience and success to the roster in his senior year, but opted not to participate after suffering a third concussion during football.

“I completely understand that,” O’Hare said. “There’s no hard feelings about that.”

The three remaining seniors may be his least experienced wrestlers on the roster.

“We’ve got Dylan Horton back, probably around 152 pounds—last year was his first year of wrestling,” O’Hare said. “I think it was a good step for him to be part of the program. He’s out there again this year to see what he can do.”

The two other seniors, Erik Torres and Matthew Sneed, have not been part of O’Hare’s program until now.

“They could help us fill a couple of the upper classes,” said O’Hare, who is looking to Torres to compete at 220 and Matthew Sneed at 285.

“Erik has committed himself to improving the way he lives and his life, especially physically.” O’Hare said. “Over the past year and half he has lost about 60 pounds. He visited me about getting down to 195 pounds. I believe at one point he was around the 260-270 range.”

Matthew Sneed, likely to wrestle at 285, has moved in from Newton without wrestling experience. 

“He hasn’t been all that involved in activities here at Hillsboro to this point,” O’Hare said. “But if there’s a way to get away with having no (wrestling) experience, it might be at 285. There’s less to learn to wrestle that style.”

In the mid-weight classes, Taryn Nordstrom from Canton-Galva will compete at 145 pounds, and classmate Andre Patton is slated for 138.

“Taryn wrestled all last year with us,” O’Hare said. “If there’s a girl that’s going to join a wrestling team at the high school level, she’s certainly is one who can handle it. She’s hard-nosed and really loves the sport. I think she still has a desire to possibly compete at the next level. She fit in really well last year.”

Patton has some wrest­ling experience through the McPherson Wrestling Kids Club.

“He wrestled a little bit at McPherson High last year, then transferred back to Canton-Galva this year,” O’Hare said. “He doesn’t have many years of experience, but he’s at least had some time on the mat.

“He’s an extremely athletic individual, very quick, pretty explosive,” he added. “He brings a lot of athleticism into the room and a lot of competitiveness. He’s a hard-working kid who really likes to get after it.”

Three freshmen round out O’Hare’s roster. The most notable probably would be Jor­dan Bachman at 126 pounds.

“He is one who came up through our kids program and had a very successful middle school couple of seasons,” O’Hare said. “Last year he finished either 14-1 or 15-1 in his eighth-grade season.

“He’s done quite a bit of work in different camps over the past several years in the summertime. He’s one who views himself as a true wrestler, this is where he’s hoping to make his mark in high school athletics. I believe he certainly has that kind of potential.”

The two remaining freshmen are Ethan Plenert and Charlie Major.

“Ethan probably will be up to 150 to 160 pounds,” O’Hare said. “He did wrestle both years in middle school, and had much experience prior to that. He’s been battling a rib injury lately, so he’s kind of in and out of practice. We’re trying to get him healed up and get him going after Thanksgiving break.”

Major will likely compete in the 113-pound class.

“It will be nice to have a little guy back in the room,” O’Hare said. “He also wrestled through middle school. Up to this point, he’s stayed healthy and is getting after it, he’s really made a ton of improvement because of the practice partners that he’s had.”

Season outlook

Given the injury situation, O’Hare projected his team may begin the competitive season with only six wrestlers in tow.

“I’m hoping we’ll have a chunk of them back by the time we hit our first dual tournament at the end of December, but a lot is riding on a few injury situations,” he said.

The bright side is the Trojans will be competing in only three competitions prior to the holiday break, which should allow for more heal time.

“We really hit the heart of our schedule in January,” he said. “Even though a chunk of those are duals—which ideally we’d love to have people in as many weight classes as possible—we’re going to be focusing on the individual aspect.

“I don’t think were going to be able to be in a position to compete as a team because of the numbers, but also due to inexperience at some weights,” he added. “So we’re going to focus a lot on the individual aspects and continue to improve each time we step on the mat.

“Hopefully, by the time we turn around into January, and get a few more of these people back in the room and able to compete, we can start making some bigger strides as a team, too.”

Hillsboro opens its competitive season tomorrow (Nov. 30) with a dual meet at Minneapolis with Halstead also competing. Matches will begin at 6 p.m.