Strong senior leaders to set the pace for wrestlers

These seniors and letter-winners will set the standard for this year?s Hillsboro wrestling team. Pictured from left are Jon Carey, Travis King, Franklin Jost, Jesse Meier, Tyson Ratzlaff, Levi Mendoza and Nathan Simhiser. Carey and Mendoza qualified for state last season. Don Ratzlaff / Free PressHillsboro wrestling coach Scott O?Hare has reason to be optimistic about this season, his ninth at the helm.

Two of the Trojans? four state qualifiers return, plus a potential qualifier who missed most of his junior season due to injury.

Add to that enough varsity-tested returners and promising newcomers to fill up to 13 of the 14 weight classes in the lineup.

?I?m very excited about it,? O?Hare said of the upcoming campaign. ?But I?m cautiously optimistic because I?ve been around enough to understand that even though we can almost fill the lineup, we have some inexperience and some youth?and they?re going to take their lumps.

?I think it?s a group of kids who could use (losses) as a motivation to get back in the room and get better. If they continue to approach it that way, I think we have some kids who could make great strides.?

Senior leadership

O?Hare is particularly excited about the potential leadership impact from his two seniors, state qualifier Jon Carey and Jesse Meier, who is back to form after last year?s elbow injury.

?They both are going to work their tails off and they are great leaders by example, but they also are both very vocal and will point things out to help the other kids,? O?Hare said.

Hillsboro?s Levi Mendoza grapples with his opponent at the 2014 Class 3-2-1A state wresting tournament. He and Jon Carey return this season for another run at state. Free Press file photo?Jon obviously started having a fair amount of success with the season he had last year,? O?Hare said. ?He really came on and wrestled some solid matches against state-ranked kids?and beat a couple of them. I?m really excited where he?s at and am just waiting to see where we fall weight-wise with him.?

Meier injured his elbow during the first tournament of the season and didn?t return to action until the league tournament late in the year. But that doesn?t mean Meier didn?t make an impact on the team.

?For as much time as he had to take off for his elbow, he still outworked half the kids in the (practice) room,? O?Hare said. ?He was at every practice doing everything that he could do, short of wrestling.?

O?Hare sees Carey competing either in the 126 or 132-pound class and Meier in the 170 class.

Additional veterans

State-qualifier Levi Men?doza heads a list of six returning non-seniors with significant varsity experience. O?Hare expects the junior to compete in the 182-pound class this season.

?He?ll be another one who will take on more leadership roles,? O?Hare said. ?He?s learned a lot about being a leader from (Carey and Meier).

Sophomore Tristan Donaldson wrestled varsity last year at 106 pounds and O?Hare is penciling him in this season at 120 or possibly 113.

?Tristan really grew a lot in his confidence last year, which is huge,? O?Hare said. ?He started feeling more comfortable with the sport of wrestling, which he just started in seventh grade. He?s matured a lot.?

Sophomore Travis King finished with a record just under .500 as a freshman at 120 pounds. O?Hare said King will move up to 126 or 132 this season.

?Travis has an awful lot of experience through our kids club,? O?Hare said. ?Both (Donaldson and King) are going to work hard. It?s just picking up on little details, doing the little things right and trying to avoid making those big mistakes that cost them.?

Another varsity-tested sophomore, Tyson Reimer, wrestled at 145 pounds last season and may do so again once his foot heals from a football injury.

?We thought some time off would be enough, but he?s struggling with it in practice,? O?Hare said. ?Tyson reminds me a lot of Jesse Meier at that age. He works so hard and continues to get better with everything he does. He?s getting physically and mentally tougher, which is going to carry him a long ways.?

Nathan Simhiser wrestled varsity at 195 pounds as a freshman last season.

?Right now, he would be on the light end of 220, but is looking to get back down to 195 again?and I believe he?ll be able to do that,? O?Hare said. ?He?s another one who grew a whole lot from last year. He is starting to get mentally and physically stronger and tougher. He wrestled a lot of good matches against quality kids last year.?

Junior Franklin Jost was the Trojans? 195-pound entry in junior varsity matches last year, but also wrestled at 220 pounds in several varsity tournaments.

?He?s a strong kid and has grown a lot for no more than he?s wrestled,? O?Hare said. ?Being a great wrestler isn?t that important to him. He just wants to be a part of a team and do his best. He likes the challenge. As long as he goes out and does his best, I?m OK with that attitude.?

Newcomers

A pair of incoming freshmen could find a place in the varsity lineup in the two lightest classes: MacKenzie Bar?tel at 105 and Ryan Brad??f?ord at 113. Both wrestled last year as middle-schoolers.

?This gives us a chance to fill those two weight classes, and they will match up with a lot of other freshmen and sophomores rather than against much more physically mature upperclassmen,? O?Hare said.

Two newcomers who have a chance to make an impact on varsity come from Canton-Galva High School, thanks to a new partnership agreement between the two districts.

Freshman Ian Alum?baugh, who has competed with the kids wrestling club in McPherson, could find a place in the Trojan lineup at 138 pounds.

?We?re trying to figure out where he stands in terms of his capabilities, and what he knows from there and how it fits into our scheme of things,? O?Hare said. ?He?s a hardworking kid and seems to really love the sport of wrestling?that alone can only mean good things.?

CGHS junior Austin Morgan has never wrestled formally, but O?Hare said his athleticism and aggressiveness could earn him a lineup opportunity at 152.

?He just gets after it,? O?Hare said. ?Both of those kids are going to be nice additions for us.?

Hillsboro freshmen Westin Ethridge (182) and Colin Settle (195) also are newcomers to wrestling and hope to learn techniques they can apply to football as linemen, O?Hare said.

Sophomore Austin Welch, out for his second year, could see varsity action at either 220 or 285. Classmate Ryan Stepanek could fill one of the openings when he becomes eligible to compete after the Christmas break.

?He?s very athletic,? O?Hare said of Stepanek. ?I think he?ll be giving us some good things in the upper weights once we get him back in the (practice) room and get him up to speed with what we?re doing.?

The Trojans will open their season Thursday, Dec. 4, when they travel to Min?neapolis for a double dual against Halstead and the host team. Matches begin at 5:30 p.m.

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