By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s hard to blame Tod Sundlie for offering a measured response when talking about his Ozark High School wrestling team this year.
You might, too, if your team graduated five of its eight state qualifiers – including both of its state medalists.
Then again, it’s not the first rodeo for the second-year coach, who knows well that the value of early- to mid-season practices and matches can lead to nice February storylines. Months ago, the Tigers won a district championship after placing second in the Central Ozark Conference.
“We will really focus on how much we can continue to improve throughout the season this year,” Sundlie said. “We are very young overall, but we hope so see a more mature, experienced team on the mat at the end of the season.”
A former Ozark wrestler under then-coach Carl Jackson and who has coached the past 16 years in some capacity, Sundlie expects about 35 wrestlers on the roster. Among the notables are 113-pound sophomore Clayton Moison, 120-pound Wyatt Snyder and 145-pound Riley Sundlie. They are the returning state qualifiers.
Moison was 31-22 last year.
“He’s coming off a great off-season,” Sundlie said. “His quality experience as a freshman should help him this year. He is a tough kid, and he is working hard to sharpen up his technique.”
Snyder finished 32-16 a year ago.
“He is really looking to have a breakout year this year,” Sundlie said. “Wyatt had a good summer, and I he has much higher expectations of himself this year. He will be asked to be a leader on this young team.”
Riley Sundlie managed a respectable sophomore year later year, when he finished 26-26.
“Riley came on strong for us late last season,” Sundlie said. “He also put a lot of quality time in this past summer, and he has set high goals for himself. He will also be asked to step up as a leader.”
The projected roster includes: sophomores Jordan Hurst and Adam Hofer at 106, sophomores Elijah Maskrod (126), Riley Newsome and Parker Lane (132) and Caden Bench. Look for junior Kale Conway at 152, senior Kaleb Doyle and sophomore Thomas Rushing at 160, juniors Chance Stricker (170) and Max Schilling (182) along with sophomore Hunter Tennison in the 285-pound weight class.
Spots for 195 and 220 are up in the air.
Maskrod, Conway, Tennison, and Rushing made notable strides last year, as they averaged 22.3 wins. Doyle, Strickler and Schilling showed leadership, too.
“All of these young men worked hard in the off-season,” Sundlie said, “they should look forward to reaping the benefits of that work this coming year.”
They’ll certainly be tested. Sundlie put together a challenging schedule that includes the Lee’s Summit and Winnetonka tournaments in the Kansas City area, the Fox Duals in the St. Louis area and the Kinloch Classic in Springfield.
“These tournaments offer great competition, and will certainly show our young wrestlers where they are at in comparison to some of the top wrestlers in the state,” Sundlie said.