Young wrestlers’ experience could boost Wildcats
With only one senior on the varsity squad this season, Shannon Sawner’s wrestlers are still young.
But they’re one year older than last year.
“I think we’ll be more competitive than we’ve been in the past,” he said. “We’ve got some juniors on the team who look pretty good.”
His squad, which last year was made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, gained a valuable year of experience on varsity mats in 2008, and Sawner expects that to pay dividends.
The coach will discover just how much his squad improved Saturday when the Wildcat grapplers travel to Wamego for their first tournament of the season.
“It should be a great chance to see how we’re doing,” he said. “It will be a good starting tournament for us.”
Abilene, a top five-ranked team will be in attendance, as well as several other 4A schools including Wamego, Salina Central, Topeka-Seaman and Topeka-Hayden.
The Wildcats are led by juniors Donny Parr and Brandon Vukas, two boys that Sawner said challenged themselves during the past year to become better wrestlers this winter.
“Donny and Brandon did a lot of work in the offseason,” he said. “They worked with me, wrestled in some tournaments around the area and went to several camps. They did really well this summer, and I expect their hard work to pay off.”
Despite the strong junior class, Sawner believes he will still field a few freshmen in the varsity lineup.
“We’re starting to see results from our junior high program,” he said. “We’ve got some freshmen coming in with more experience in the past, and they should be able to compete for some spots.
“The more I see some of these new kids, the more I think I may have to lift some of the guys with club experience into the lineup. I think they will be able to do some things.”
With the Thanksgiving break, the Wildcats are healthy and well-rested going into their first tournament of the year.
“We were dinged up a little last week, but we gave them a couple days off for Thanksgiving and we’re pretty healthy now,” Sawner said.
The varsity squad will have five days off after the Wamego Tournament before traveling Dec. 10 to Santa Fe Trail.