By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Funny thing about wrestling – no matter how much a former wrestler or coach tries to step away, it has a way of tugging on heart strings.
Which is why Jeremy Finley is back leading a program, this time at Joplin High School. He is expecting 45 wrestlers, including 10 returning starters – two who qualified for state. One medaled.
Even better, he is not afraid of challenging them all right away.
“This being my first year, I’m really not sure what is going to be our toughest part of the schedule, but I did shake some things up with our schedule to make it bit more a challenge for our kids,” Finley said. “We are going to see some different competition throughout the year that I think will help us out come February when it comes to districts and the state tournament.”
Finley is a former wrestler himself. He competed for Chanute (Kan.) High School, Neosho Community College and Central Missouri State. He was at Carl Junction as head coach from 2009 to 2015 before stepping away, considering he had a young family.
The Eagles’ roster features Jaydin Withrow, a 220-pound senior and two-time state qualifier. He was fifth last season.
“He’s a hard worker. He’s been wrestling a long time and is a team leader,” Finley said. “He’s looking to make that next step this season.”
Jacob Booe is a two-time state qualifier.
“He spent all summer in the weight room and worked his tail off to become stronger and become a full-size heavyweight,” Finley said. “He attended all of our summer workouts and looks to become a state medalist this year.”
The projected roster also includes sophomore Reese Macios (106), sophomores Josiah Vaughn and Jimmy Turnbull at 113, sophomore Nick Vang, and senior Brendan Evans at 120 or 126, sophomore Derrick Brozek at 126 or 132, sophomore Josh Harryman at 138 or 145, and freshman Kyle Forrest at 138, and senior Brayden Williams at 145 or 152.
Look for freshman Erin Sneed at 152, sophomore Nathan Glades and senior Keaton Bradley at 160, freshman Aiden Short at 170, senior Nick Lewis and junior Connor Brown at 182 and senior Lucas Kuehnel at 195.
Glades and Macios could be sleepers.
“(Glades) is a strong kid who looks to make leap this year from last,” Finley said. “He worked hard all summer in the weight room and looks good.”
“Reese attended very open mat this summer and worked very hard,” Finley said. “He also attend a few of the camps we went to.”
With Joplin’s enrollment numbers, Finley obviously is eager to build the program.
“Like most coach’s, I definitely want to see our numbers increase from previous seasons. From there, I think we will see more W’s in the win column,” Finley said. “I also want to see our kids have fun and enjoy the sport with that comes hard work and dedication. When kids start winning in any sport, I think it starts to become more fun.”