By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
They’ve got pretty cool digs that just marked their one-year debut, plus upwards of 60 guys anticipated on the opening-week roster and – perhaps the biggest positive – they’ve got major support of the football coach.
“He wants all the football players in wrestling,” longtime Lebanon High School wrestling coach Randy Roark said of Will Christian, the school’s football coach and athletic director. “And that’s what we’re hoping for – to get more big guys. We’re already pretty strong.”
In other words, Yellowjacket Wrestling certainly has a lot going for it as the curtain rises on the season. The defending Ozark Conference champion returns three state qualifiers, including two sophomores in Christian’s son, Trevor, at 145 pounds and Roark’s son, Cole, in the 126-pound weight class.
Hunter Lewis, a junior, also reached the state tournament a year ago, finishing with 44 wins, and is anticipated to compete in either the 113- or 120-pound weight class.
All this for a program that a year ago moved into the old junior high school – which was not a demotion by any stretch. There, the Yellowjackets practice on a sunken floor and five mats. It’s a great set-up in a town where the USA Wrestling program acts as a great feeder program for the high school.
Which explains why Roark, now in his 20th season at Lebanon and 14th as head coach, remains optimistic despite graduating four varsity wrestlers.
Christian placed third in the 132-pound weight class in Class 4 last March, rallying through the consolation bracket after losing his third match. He then went on to compete for the Missouri Cadet National Freestyle Team and placed eighth at the national tournament.
“He’s tough on his feet,” Roark said. “He’s a go-getter and can score some points from on top. I’m expecting a great year from him.”
Landon Smith, another sophomore, likely will compete at 220, along with junior Noah Simmonds.
“Last year, he was 20-15 against mostly juniors and seniors,” Roark said, noting Smith hit the weight room hard in the offseason. “Over the summer, he turned into a man.”
Lewis is another intriguing wrestler, having learned valuable lessons after posting a 1-2 record at the state tournament.
“In Class 4, it’s a different monster,” Roark said. “But he put a lot of time in over the summer. He didn’t do freestyle or Greco-Roman, but he’s been in our open mats. He’s out to get better.”
Roark’s son, Cole, had 39 wins last year and lost in the bubble round at the state tournament.
“He’s one of those who’s physical,” Roark said. “He’s got to get better on bottom. That’s where he lost at the state tournament.”
The rest of the roster could see freshman Cole Patton and sophomore Austin Johnson at 106, junior Hogan Fisher and Colt Adkins at 113, sophomore Zach Miller at 126, and sophomores Kale Keagy and Hayden Dearborn at 132.
Look for senior Cade Schmitz and freshman Elijah Arl at 138, juniors Reagan Mowery and Caleb Shields at 152, sophomore Tyler Paul and junior Jericho Marquez and Ben Arl at 160, junior John Berry and freshman Jake Henson at 170 and juniors Ty Glendenning and Kameron Heinrichs at 182.
In the upper weights, seniors Caleb Brown, Bryce Angst and Cody Smith are in the mix at 195, while 285 could see junior Race Cottongin, senior Rylan Hoard and sophomore Wyatt Thompson.
“I think we’re going to be solid,” Roark said. “You’ll see some surprises for sure. There are some freshmen coming in who will be knocking on the door.”