If there is strength in numbers, Marion’s wrestling team is in good shape heading into the 2017 season as the Warriors boast a 14-person roster.
“We’re excited,” second-year coach Tyler McMichael said. “I’m so glad to have more than 10 kids. We can do so many things now that we couldn’t last year, just because of extra bodies.”
McMichael, too, has a year of coaching experience under his belt.
He said in his first season as head coach, he learned how to better dissect instructions into simpler steps as well as communicate with parents, trends he hopes to continue this year.
The Warriors lost three senior state qualifiers to graduation last year: Jarrett Johnson, Bryce Shults and Noah Albin, but six varsity wrestlers return to anchor the Warriors on the mat this season.
That list begins with two returning state qualifiers.
Senior Tyler Palic returns as state runner-up at 195 pounds. Ranked fifth in Class 3-2-1A, Palic won three state matches before losing to top-ranked Jacob Jenkins from Chaparral in the finals. Jenkins, a senior, entered the match with just one loss. Palic ended the season with an overall record of 35-7.
“(Tyler) worked all summer,” McMichael said. “He lifted. He worked out all the time. He’s a very athletic individual as it is, and for him to work as hard as he did, we expect huge things. We expect him to go out and give everything he’s got every weekend, and we just expect him to go out and dominate most of the year.”
Palic is expected to wrestle at 195 again this year.
“Losing the last match of the year, it’s not a fun thing to do, but it’s a good learning experience because now he’s tasted that state finals and he’s made it there,” McMichael said. “He’s seen it. He knows what it’s like. He knows what to expect, so now our goal is to just get back there and continue.”
Junior Charlie Nordquist is also a returning state qualifier. He went 2-2 at 182 pounds a year ago, concluding his sophomore campaign with an overall record of 27-10. He is expected to wrestle at 182 again this year.
“(Charlie’s) been working out, working hard all summer and during the fall season,” McMichael said. “He’s a big, physical kid, so we’re excited to have him have another year under his belt and continue to move forward, too.”
Additional returning varsity wrestlers include seniors Brock Mitchell (138, 145), Kolton Brewer (160, 170) and Jarret McLinden (285) and junior Ethan Darnall (126, 132).
Brewer and McLinden were each one match from qualifying for state a year ago. Darnall wrestled at 120 pounds last year, but will move up to either 126 or 132 this season. He and Mitchell went to the same wrestling camp this summer, McMichael said.
Newcomer Kyle Horton, a junior transfer from Hillsboro, also brings varsity experience, McMichael said. Horton wrestled at either 145 or 152 last year.
Sophomore Calib Mallory (132, 138) competed in junior varsity action last season.
Six new wrestlers have joined the team: sophomores Cooper Carpenter (170, 182), Hunter Helmer (170, 182) and Luke Lanning (195, 220); and freshmen Forest Slater (106), Will Alleven (106, 113) and Todd Palic (152, 160).
“We’ve got some newcomers that are picking things up very fast,” McMichael said, adding that Alleven and Todd Palic have prior wrestling experience. “They already had a pretty good idea of the basics before they came in to practice Monday.
“The guys who are brand new are picking it up quickly, and I see some of them could definitely have some varsity spots on our lineup this year.”
McMichael said he does not expect to field a full varsity lineup this season, anticipating two or three open weight classes.
“We do have enough people, numbers-wise, but we have some people that are kind of stacked on top of each other, weight-wise,” he said. “We could probably fill 12 out of 14 (weight classes).”
Strengths of the team include numbers and team chemistry.
“We didn’t have half of the kids last year on our roster that we do now,” McMichael said. “Our guys from last year did a really good job of talking to their friends and getting their friends to come out. They’re all a very close-knit group, and that’s always something you want with a team. It just makes things run smoothly. It makes them closer. It makes them compete better.”