ATLANTIC – The annual “Meet the Team” night on Monday gave fans across the Atlantic a glimpse of what the next wrestling season has in store for them.
That could be good enough, if all the indications are what they are.
Two wrestlers ranked in the top 5, as well as a group of subclasses who gained college experience a year ago, make coach Tim Duff very optimistic about the season ahead.
The Trojans finished third a year ago in a very competitive Hawkeye Ten Conference tournament with 182.5 points, just 2-1 / 2 behind Clarinda. Five junior or younger Trojans qualified for the Districts, three went on to declare and one of them – Ethan Follmann – placed fifth at 120 pounds en route to a 29-4 season, which included a Hawkeye Ten Championship.
Junior Tanner O’Brien (152) clinched a third place finish at the Hawkeye Ten to earn a spot in the district. Senior Kadin Stutzman (170) won a Hawkeye Ten and a district championship before going 1-2 in the state meet to wrap up a 31-3 season.
But the ingredients are there for a great season, and if the going is right, a berth at the national doubles wrestling meet and several wrestlers reaching the podium at the traditional national meet in February are not out of the question.
Duff said the roster itself is not fully determined and it would be interesting to see where things go, especially after the “Meet the Team” night. But seniors Follmann, Stutzman and Keith Archibald, the latter a transfer from Red Oak who struggled 152 points for the Tigers a year ago.
The junior class is a large group – 13 athletes – who Duff says have stayed together and supported each other. Several have academic credentials, with Josh Hass (113), Cruz Weaver (126), Easton O’Brien (138), Brian South (145), Tanner O’Brien, Jarrett Armstrong (182), Brenden Casey (195) and Nathan Keizer (285) all having college experience a year ago. Easton O’Brien qualified for the state as a rookie but suffered a mid-season injury a year ago; South and Tanner O’Brien have all reached the district meeting.
Newcomers to the class who might qualify for varsity spots are Brent Masker (145), who had a strong season at the junior varsity level a year ago; Domanic Mullins Central West Valley Transfer (126); and Miles Mundorf (195-220), who competed in the American and Greco-Roman freestyle competition in Fargo last summer.
“This experience and level of maturity, physically and mentally, as children develop, makes a big difference. We are delighted to see these children continue to improve, ”said Duff, noting that several wrestlers have just completed exceptional football seasons. “We have a bunch of these kids who come from good football seasons.
“This junior class is where we’re going to have to make hay. They struggled a lot and some of them took their pieces (their freshman and sophomore years) but I think they’re really ready to have a good season, ”said Duff.
Dante Hedrington (138-145) leads the sophomore class and was the only freshman to wrestle extensively at the college level a year ago. Tristan Becker (126-132) was a member of the CAM State Championship football team, while Taye Jordan (106), Owen Hoover (160-170), Cohen Bruce (195) will also be in the running for places. Jordan also competed in the national championships at Fargo, Duff noted.
Nine freshmen are also on the list, according to TrackWrestling: Cameron McDermott and Aiden Smith (106), Jarrett Hansen (126), Kegan Crogahn (132), AC Roller and Tyson O’Brien (145), Kayden Crall and David Retallic (170) and Evan Sorensen (285) and will be looking to make a good impression.
“For us, our focus is on trying to improve each day,” said Duff. “If we have a group of kids pushing each other to improve, they will help the team to improve. Ultimately, at the end of the season, we’ll see how far we can go and try to improve at the end of the day.
Atlantic’s schedule is tougher than ever, and this shows especially in the December portion of the schedule. The Trojans open the season Thursday at a quadrangular hosted by Underwood, ranked fifth in the Iowa Class 1A IA Wrestle standings; Glenwood and Riverside will also compete there. Friday night, the Trojans make their annual trip to Humboldt for the Joe Fitch Invitational.
Creston, the defending Hawkeye Ten champion and once again a favorite, will host the Trojans on Tuesday, December 7; Red Oak will also be present at the competition. On Friday and Saturday December 10 and 11, the Council Bluffs Classic will be held at the Mid-America Center, the 40-team extravaganza that draws teams from Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas and South Dakota as well as Iowa. Two invitational games on Saturday December 18 (Red Owens Holiday Classic at Southeast Polk) and Thursday December 23 (Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont), as well as games against Carroll Kuemper Catholic and a tough team from Council Bluffs Lewis Central round out the pre-vacation schedule.