Knights’ program reloads with high hopes on the mats

Knights’ program reloads with high hopes on the mats

Image Credit: Justin Smith

As usual, hope springs eternal for the West Holmes Knights wrestling team, and for good reason.

The 2021-22 wrestling season is fast approaching, and the Knights will gear up for their first action for Dec. 4 when the Knights compete at the Bobcat Invitational Tournament at Cambridge High School.

The opening leg of the season could be a huge step in what is potentially a banner season for Knights wrestling head coach Scott Vaughn, who enters his fifth season at the helm.

With four returning state qualifiers including seniors Tucker Kaufman, Brady Smith and Dylan Strouse, plus junior Mason Taylor, who placed eighth at last season’s state tournament, the Knights have a solid foundation for a very successful campaign. Those four return with a collective 149-40 mark and 87 pins from last season.

Other firepower the Knights will have comes from junior Elisha Baldridge, who posted 35 wins last season; senior Noah Tish, who rolled out 29 match winners; senior Conner Varnes, who notched 21 wins; and junior Collin Gardner, who is expected to anchor the Knights at heavyweight after suffering an injury-riddled sophomore season.

Also competing for starting slots are senior Hunter Eberhard; juniors Zane Baker, Cylie Couch, Caleb Larimore, Blake Norman and Dakota Patterson; and sophomores Gabe Averbukh, Kalan Bowling-Cappadony, Grant Miller, Grady Toye and Logan Vansickle.

A promising class of 10 freshman are in the room including Darren Galion, Garrett McCluggage, Hunter McCluggage, Braylen McKinney, Mac Miller, Macin Miller, Cole Porter, AAJ Roberts, Morgan Smith and Rome Thomas.

That freshman class brings with it a 174-48 record from the 2020-21 season and saw Hunter McCluggage, the Miller twins, Porter and Roberts all qualify for the junior high state championship tournament.

Attack Team has good numbers, experience not so much

Holmes Area Wrestling Club volunteer head coach Jarret Mathie and his volunteer staff have a huge number of grade school wrestlers in the practice room for the upcoming 2021-22 season. Unfortunately, those huge numbers don’t provide a bunch of experience as the Attack Team prepares for its season-opening Ohio Youth Wrestling Association Mid-Ohio Division dual meets, which are slated for Sunday, Dec. 5 at Dalton High School.

The 2020-21 season was a lost season for the elementary wrestlers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was basically a practice-only season, resulting in a lost year of experience.

However, Mathie knows it will be the experienced wrestlers who will have to lead by example to a very young and inexperienced squad.

“We have just 16 out of 42 wrestlers with any previous experience,” Mathie recently said. “That being said, we will be looking to have our older guys to lead and carry the youngsters of the program.”

Only 17 wrestlers grades 4-6 make up the Attack Team roster with 10 third-graders, 13 second-graders and two first-graders filling up the practice room.

“With 42 kids in the room, it has been very hectic,” Mathie said of the practice room. “We do have a new addition to the coaching staff this season, with Will Morehouse stepping in. Will gives us another former (West Holmes) wrestler helping the program. For the most part, the kids have worked hard and been willing to learn. We are nicely spread out age wise with a decent amount of kids from each grade but definitely lack in the experience department.”

Upcoming season has potential for middle school Knights wrestling

When the West Holmes Middle School wrestling team steps onto the mat on Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Cougar Invitational Tournament at Crestview High School near Ashland, Knights sixth-year head coach Jeremy Dombrady will have a squad with experience and a squad with limited to no experience.

Ten eighth-grade wrestlers return this season, headed up by OAC junior high state qualifiers Louden Dixon (state runner-up in 2020 as a sixth-grader) and Peyton Martin (28-1 in 2020-21). Cam McCluggage (19-11) and Dylan Sours (17-12) bring back experience as well. Also returning are Grady Hawkins, Royce Milam and Logan Van-Dalen. Competing in their first year are Collin Badger, Charlie Cooper and Wesley Yoder.

With COVID-19 canceling elementary wrestling last season, the seventh-grade group of 11 wrestlers are primarily a new group. Carson Horn and Chris Williams, both 15-plus match winners in 2019-20, along with Wyatt Garens, Leland Landaw, Colton Leyda and Cohen Wilson, have all wrestled with the elementary Attack Team. New faces include Chet Cooper, Ian Daugherty, Ava Fleming, Parker Hoxworth and Bronson Myers.