By David Fong
CASSTOWN — Mark Rose has seen more than his fair share of individual talents — state champions, state placers and district qualifiers by the bushel — come and go through the Miami East wrestling program.
Never before in his career, however, has the East wrestling coach had quite this much depth and talent in nearly every weight class at his disposal.
“We’ve had tough individuals in the past, but we’ve never been able to fill a complete — or almost complete team,” Rose said. “This year we feel like we can fill 13 of 14 weight classes, and possibly all 14 if we bump some guys around. And we feel very confident going into dual matches with the 13 kids we’ve got, that even if we have to take a forfeit, we’ll be fine.
“Where we are young, we are still experienced, because we’ve got young guys who have wrestled before. At the lower weights we’ve got hammers, and at the upper weights we’ve got hammers who are seniors. We return three state placers. This is probably the most solid team we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Leading the team will be a trio of returning state placers — a pair of sophomores in the lower weight classes and a senior at heavyweight. Graham Shore and Alex Isbrandt both placed seventh at state last year as freshmen. Shore will wrestle at 113, while Isbrandt will compete at 126.
“Graham Shore is fast,” Rose said. “He’s a fast starter and he’s fast in the practice room. Isbrandt is a 6-foot, 126-pounder, which you don’t see very often. He’s got a very long body. He’s got long arms and long legs and he knows how to use them. It’s exciting to watch those two drill against one another — you can tell they are quality wrestlers.”
Senior Ben Ferguson — who placed eighth at state last year and was a state qualifier as a sophomore — returns to anchor the upper weight classes for the Vikings.
“Ben has been working hard,” Rose said. “He’s getting out of football shape and into wrestling shape. He’s doing great. He’s moving great and he’s very strong — I don’t like wrestling him anymore.”
Joining Ferguson in the upper weight classes will be three fellow seniors — Daniel Everett at 182, Dalton Loughman at 195 and Caden Hellyer at 220.
“Our seniors are looking really good,” Rose said. “And the nice thing is, we’ve got some younger guys who are able to drill with them and learn from them. Daniel Everett was a light 220 for us last year, but has made the cut to 182 and looks very, very good. Dalton Loughman is a former district qualifier — he made it two years ago — and he is looking good.
“Caden Hellyer was a district qualifier last year and we are very hopeful for him to have a good season this year. He looks really strong. He had a great football season and has a lot of confidence coming in from that. We really like having all those seniors at the upper weights for us.”
Competing at 106 for the Vikings will be freshman Cole Taylor. The Vikings don’t currently have anyone to compete at 120. At 132 will be sophomore Zane Strubler.
“Cole is a light 106, but technique-wise, he’s pretty solid,” Rose said. “He’s a kid we hope can wrestle for two years at 106 for us. Zane is a very tough wrestler. We are looking for great things from him. Watching him drill, you know he has a lot of confidence.”
District qualifier Andy Harmon returns at 145 this season.
“Andy has put a lot more work in this year,” Rose said. “He seems to really want it this year.”
Three of the middle weights remain up for grabs going into the season. At 138, junior Trey Rush and freshman Cody Nickels are competing for the varsity spot. At 152, freshmen Michael Miller and Cyle Sturgill will wrestle-off for the varsity spot. Junior Colton Kolowak and freshman Cody Smith will compete for the spot at 160.
At 170 will be freshman Matthew Welker.
“He’s very tall and very lanky — but he’s a strong kid,” Rose said. “We’re looking for good things from him.”
With increased depth will come increased expectations against a beefed-up schedule that includes dual matches with state-ranked opponents Dayton Christian, Mechanicsburg and Covington, along with trips to several prestigious tournaments, including the Medina Invitational, one of the top 10 tournaments in the nation.
“We are not shying away from anyone,” Rose said. “We are ranked ninth in the state — but rankings are meaningless. It’s all about performance. We’ve got to go out and perform.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong