By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Do yourself a favor this winter, especially if you love wrestling. Stop by Carthage High School’s new fieldhouse. There, you will see a few things – including a 70-foot-by-70-foot wrestling room, and a smiling veteran coach.
This as part of a $10 million multipurpose complex that opened this year.
“It’s one of those things where it’s the most expensive present I’ve ever been given,” Carthage coach Kenneth Brown said. “Our acting superintendent and I wanted people to walk into the place and say, ‘This is amazing.’ And that’s what’s happened.”
It’s no wonder Brown is excited. Some 77 student-athletes already have expressed interest in joining the team and, even if 50-plus stay on, the lineup depth could be the impetus toward a historical season. Never has a Carthage team finished among the state’s top three at a state tournament.
However, four of last year’s seven state qualifiers are returning, and perhaps the team can find at least two more guys to provide the extra push at state.
“The room helps, and we had a huge eighth-grade group last year. And I teach freshmen as well, so that helps with the recruiting process,” said Brown, now in his 16th season at Carthage.
His wife, Crystal, and assistants Nate Kelly and John Petticrew readied the room in recent months. It now features 25 10-foot circles.
From there may rise state medalists. Look for two-time placer Dalen Moore, a junior, to return to 120 pounds. Other returning qualifiers include seniors Nick Norbury (126), Corben Pugh (145) and Dillon Lancaster (182).
Moore finished third last year, when he had 133 takedowns and set the team’s season record in near-falls, with 64. He’s a well-rounded wrestler, good on his feet and well as on top. For instance, in the state consolation semifinals last season, he scored a 1-0 win by riding his opponent the entire two-minute final period.
Norbury is a two-time qualifier.
“They’re mature young men and a lot of time s they are wresting boys,” Brown said of Moore and Norbury. “They are within 5 pounds of where they want to wrestle, so cutting weight won’t be an issue.”
Pugh also is a two-time state qualifier who could have a breakout season.
“Having a young man like that with that athletic ability, it can go a long way,” Brown said. “He’s just that kind of athlete and everybody knows it.”
Lancaster reached state last year, his first season after skipping the sport his sophomore year.
Sophomore Kolbe Jones could be a factor should he make weight at 113. Otherwise, he’ll have to compete against Moore or Norbury for varsity time.
The rest of the lineup includes freshman Dagan Sappington at 106, sophomores Tanner Russow (113) and Anderson Ixcol (132), senior Jacob Harden (138), a pair of 152-pounders in junior Victor Salazar and sophomore Brandon Crow, sophomore Trulyn Kendrick (160), senior Ymbar Polanco (170), senior Chris Perez (220) and senior William Prince and Brener Oscana at 285.
Competition won’t be a problem for Carthage.
“That’s a wonderful thing,” Brown said. “Kids can’t sit on their laurels. Others are going to be knocking on the door – from their own school.”