By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
This next February, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few guys from the Waynesville High School wrestling program return from the state tournament with some pretty nice hardware.
However, that’s old hat for Sean Sax, who in the past three seasons has placed at the Class 4 state tournament. Naturally, he has his sights set on bringing home a state championship, this time at either 132 or 138 pounds.
“That’s his goal,” Waynesville coach Lucas Smith said. “I know he’s been working hard this offseason, doing a lot of the things we’ve asked. He’s right there, trying to get over the hump.”
Sax is one of three returning state qualifiers for Waynesville, which could be formidable in the Ozark Conference again this year after the Tigers finished second at the conference tournament last season.
The other two returning qualifiers are Chance Carmack, a two-time qualifier actually, and Gaven Sax.
In the senior Sax, though, the Tigers have a centerpiece wrestler at 132 or 138.
In two of the past three seasons, he lost in the semifinals to the eventual state champion and, in the other year, he lost to an opponent who placed second. Last year’s loss was to a guy he beat in Kansas City earlier in the year.
“Sean’s done a great job of working on his strength,” Smith said. “He’s getting bigger and taller and has really matured.”
Carmack, now a senior, likely will compete at either 120 or 126.
“He’s got great experience,” Smith said. “Just like Sean, he’s come up through our kids club. He’s one of those guys who gets in your face. He’s high-energy and he gets great leg attacks.”
Gavin Sax, now a sophomore, could compete at 132 or 138 – whichever that his older brother doesn’t take.
“There will be some decisions made over at their house since they are brothers,” Smith said. “I’ll let them sort that out and give them options of what’s best for the team.”
Other notables include Thomas Brady (106-113), senior Aiden Brady (126), sophomore Aaron McDaniel (126-132), senior Mario Garza (138-145), junior Michael Cassidy (145), Daniel Albrecht (152), senior Devon Stearns (170), senior Floyd Moore (182), senior Daniel Rodrigues (195-220) and Andrew Lietold (220-285).
Cassidy was a state qualifier in 2016, while Albrecht fell one match shy of reaching state last year.
Overall, Smith anticipates almost 50 wrestlers at the start of the season. That’s a reflection of a number of factors – Lucas is in his 15 year at Waynesville, fourth as head coach; a good middle school program and quality kids club.
It also helps this year, months after the team saw two state qualifiers graduate in Taylor Bruch and Peter Lucid.
“We’ve got some work to do as always, but even these younger guys have varsity experience,” Smith said. “But these younger guys now need to step up and be moving to state. I feel comfortable they will take the place of guys who moved on.”