With his largest roster in four years, Hillsboro wrestl?ing coach Scott O?Hare is anticipating a season where the Trojans will have the numbers to compete better in duals and the skills to score well in tournaments.
With a roster of 16?the most wrestlers in four seasons?O?Hare hopes to fill almost all the 14 weight classes in duals, which could make a huge difference in team scoring with fewer forfeited matches.
Numbers help, but O?Hare?s wrestlers are spread fairly well across the weight spectrum.
?If things go the way we expect, we?ll fill 12 to 14 weight classes?which will be nice,? O?Hare said. ?Rea?sonably, we could fill 13.?
The roster boost largely is the result of an eight-member freshman class. Several may earn a spot in the varsity lineup, but O?Hare is looking to his returning veterans to set the pace.
Heading that list is junior Jon Carey, the Trojans? lone returning state qualifier at 120 pounds last season. Carey?s season record of 8-18 is misleading, according to his coach.
?He missed a big part of last season, so his record coming back isn?t what you?d think for being a state qualifier,? O?Hare said. ?When he came back, he was seeing some tough competition coming off an injury. He wasn?t in wrestling shape. Down the stretch, he really started picking up things. He started to look really good.?
O?Hare expects Carey to compete this season at 126 or 132.
?He?ll still be down in the lower weights,? he said. ?But he?s a strong kid for his size and has a ton of energy. He?s looked pretty strong.?
One of O?Hare?s freshmen, Tristan Donaldson, will compete in the lightest class, 106 pounds.
?Tristan doesn?t have a lot of experience, but as a freshman at 106 he?s going to see a lot of kids who are in the same boat,? he said. ?Once we get him feeling comfortable and confident of what he?s capable of doing, I think Tristan can be a pretty good wrestler for us. He?s going to be a tough matchup for other kids because he?s so tall and long.?
With the 113-pound class likely to go unfilled, another freshman, Travis King, is the leading candidate to succeed Carey at 120 pounds.
?He?s a hard-working kid and hard nosed,? O?Hare said of King. ?He?s going to give us everything thing he?s got. He?ll progress quite a bit.?
Depending whether Carey wrestles at 126 or 132, freshman Brook Bradford likely will compete in the other weight class.
?Both are looking to get to 126, and neither one of them will be a hard pull,? O?Hare said. ?It?s just a matter of making a committent to do it.?
Two relatively inexperienced wrestlers are looking for a varsity spot at 138: Nathan Bartel, a freshman, and Jonah Liles, who is a newcomer to high school athletics as a junior.
?Bartel wrestled through middle school and really shows flashes of wrestling savvy,? O?Hare said. ?He understands a lot with balance and body position. He?s just got to progress to put it all together.?
Two Trojans will wrestle either at 145 or at 152. One of them, senior Cody Delk, is back on the mat after missing last year due to injury.
?He?s been in our program for years and yet he?s wrestled only one high school season?he?s been injured the other two,? O?Hare said.
?I think he?s going to be a pretty good leader for us. He knows how to wrestle, he just has to polish off a lot of rust from the time he?s been off the mat. I think he?ll have a really good season.?
The other contender is freshman Tyson Reimer.
?Although he has quite a bit of experience, he?ll be in the region of our lineup where we have pretty solid upper classmen,? O?Hare said. ?I?ll be excited to see how he can compete against them.?
Senior Preston Nelson, who missed qualifying for state last season by one match, appears to be a lock at 160 pounds.
?He?s always had the mentality and the athleticism to be a great wrestler, but he?s been lacking technique,? O?Hare said. ?That really started to come around for him last year. Late in the season he had a really nice run. I think he?ll do some really good things for us this year.?
Junior Jesse Meier, coming off an all-league season in football, is the Trojan favorite at 170 pounds.
?The kid has worked so hard in the last 12 months,? O?Hare said. ?I?ll be excited to see Jesse have a big turnaround this year. Things are going to start clicking for him. His body has now caught up with his (tough) mentality.?
Levi Mendoza is the leading candidate at 182; he saw significant varsity action last year as a freshman.
?He obviously improved through the year last year,? O?Hare said. ?When he fully understands how to push his body as far as it will go to improve, some good things are going to start happening with him.?
Battling for the spot at 195 are sophomore Franklin?Jost and freshman Nathan Sim?hiser. Jost, who saw most of his action last season with the junior varsity, could step in at 220 pounds; Sim?hiser is coming off a solid middle-school career.
Having been a backup for state-performer Tyrell Thiessen that past couple of seasons, senior Matt Reeh will be the Trojan representative at 285.
?He?s had a good sparring partner for a couple years,? O?Hare said of Reeh. ?I?m anxious to see him get thrown into the varsity lineup.?
Having a nearly full line?up certainly will help the Trojans in duals, but the influx of youth makes it too early to guarantee victories.
?I can?t say how good a duals team we?re going to be after just a few practices,? O?Hare said. ?As long as they do what one of our main goals is?which is to get better every day?it could be an exciting group from a duals standpoint.?
As for tournaments, ?I think we have more than enough depth where a lot of kids could score points,? he said. ?But I also think we have enough on the top end to get to those medal rounds to bring in those big points.
?I don?t know at this point if we can bring home a bunch of trophies and medals, but I think in a lot of tournaments we could be in the mix.?
As always, the ultimate goal is to qualify wrestlers for the Class 3-2-1A state tournament in Hays.
?I definitely think we have some state-placing potential,? O?Hare said.
In the meantime, the Tro?jans are preparing for their season opener Dec. 5. They will travel to Halstead for dual matchups with the host team and with Minneapolis. Action begins at 5:30 p.m.
?I?m anxious to see how we can get this team put together and progress?and see then what they can do,? O?Hare said. ?They?ve been a pretty exciting group to work with so far.?