Two state wrestlers will lead Trojans

These four returning letter-winners will lead this year?s Hillsboro wrestling team. Pictured from left are Travis King, Tristan Donaldson, Franklin Jost and Levi Mendoza. King and Mendoza are past state tournament qualifiers.
These four returning letter-winners will lead this year?s Hillsboro wrestling team. Pictured from left are Travis King, Tristan Donaldson, Franklin Jost and Levi Mendoza. King and Mendoza are past state tournament qualifiers.

Scott O?Hare returns two athletes with state tournament experience as he begins his 10th year as head coach of Hillsboro wrestling.

Senior Levi Mendoza and junior Travis King have competed in the Class 3-2-1A tournament at Hays.

O?Hare said he feels fortunate to have Mendoza back on this year?s squad.

?He had been gone through the fall semester and moved back here a few weeks ago,? he said.

?He was a state qualifier as a sophomore and missed going last year by one match?but it became a big motivator for him,? he added. ?He actually went on to wrestle in the kids club season after high school (this summer) and placed sixth at kids state.

?People look at that as a kids wrestling tournament, but it?s actually a pretty tough one because you?re facing everybody in the state of Kansas rather than being broken down into classifications.?

O?Hare said Mendoza has been looking good during the preseason.

?I?m anticipating he?ll start out at 195 (pounds), but there?s a chance he might go down to 182.?

King, meanwhile, competed at state a year ago at 126 pounds and has years of experience with the local program.

?He really started coming on late last year,? O?Hare said. ?He won a couple of big matches at the regional tournament to get to state, and it was a good experience for him to get there.?

Like Mendoza, King has worked at his craft during the off-season by participating in several summer camps led by former NCAA wrestling champions Nick and Tony Purler.

?It?s given him the opportunity to wrestle against quality competition and just pick up on some other little techniques,? O?Hare said. ?It?s been good for him?he?s looked really good here at the start of the season.?

King likely will compete at either 132 or 138 pounds.

O?Hare?s only other senior is Franklin Jost, who likely will compete at 182 or possibly 170. Jost, who took up wrestling when he got to high school, missed qualifying for state last season by one match.

?He?s a very hard-working kid who has a good head on his shoulders, but has had a little different point of view in terms of the competitive end of it,? O?Hare said. ?He loves being a part of it and loves the hard work that wrestling requires, but winning just hasn?t always been the top of his mindset.

?This year he seems to have a little different mentality about it?not necessarily that if he doesn?t win it?s not a successful event, but the fact that he?s excited to see what he is able to do.

?He has made a tremendous amount of progress the past several years.?

Joining King as the only other junior on the team is letter-winner Tristan Donald?son, who wrestled at 120 pounds last season but could compete at 132 or 138 this season.

?I anticipate he?ll be down at around 132,? O?Hare said. ?He?s a real hard-working kid and is starting to come into his own in terms of the competitive side of things. I?m excited to see what he does this year.?

O?Hare has 10 freshmen and sophomores on his 14-man roster, but only sophomores Mac Bartel and Ian Alumbaugh have significant varsity experience.

Bartel wrestled at 106 and 113 last year and likely will compete at 113 or 120 this season.

?He won the Hesston tournament as a freshman,? O?Hare said. ?He battled some health issues last year, but is very aggressive and very strong for his size?and pretty explosive.

?He?s got potential. We just have to continue to help him channel it into good technique.?

Alumbaugh is the lone athlete from Canton-Galva on this year?s Trojan roster.

?Ian?s gotten a little bigger,? O?Hare said. ?He wrestled at 138 last year, he?ll probably be at 160, although he?s talked about getting down to 152.

?He?s physically well-put together at that weight, and I think he?ll be able to hold that OK. He continues to improve with his technique, which is going to be a huge step for him.?

One other potential impact wrestler is Jaden Priest, who has limited experience.

?He actually came out just before Christmas last year, but he really took to it and looked very natural with some of the things he was doing,? O?Hare said. ?He has picked up on things really well and I think he?ll press for a spot in the starting lineup at 152 or 160.?

As a group, O?Hare sees his team as ?a very hard-working group of kids in practice. They?ve been very coachable, which is always good. I believe they have bought into the simple goal we have in mind of getting better every day.?

The Trojans will have two competitions on the home mats before Christ?mas, including a triangular with Halstead and Minneapolis to open the season Dec. 3, followed by the Marion County Duals Tournament that they co-host with Marion Dec. 18.

After Christmas, Hills?boro will host a dual versus Council Grove Jan. 28.