By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If you’re every talking about the more competitive wrestling teams in the Ozark Conference, better mention the Waynesville Tigers.
Since 2010, they have finished in the Top 10 of the Class 4 state tournament team standings some five times. That includes Nos. 6 and 7 finishes as recently as 2013 and 2014. Plus, the Tigers won the Ozark Conference last year and placed second in Class 4 District 3.
Perhaps Waynesville has the horses, er, wrestlers to do something similar this year. After all, coach Lucas Smith’s program is expected to have 53 on the roster. That includes eight returning starters. Among them are four returning state qualifiers, two who earned medals.
In other words, they have leadership in the room again this year, starting with seniors Michael Cassidy (152) and Daniel Albrecht (160) along with 145-pound junior Gaven Sax. Plus, 195-pound senior Andrew Lietold could do damage again.
Cassidy was an Ozark Conference champion last year and placed fourth at 145.
“He’s being looked at by several (NCAA) Division I and Division II colleges, wrestles all the time and is a football guy,” Smith said. “He’s done a great job for this program and other programs in our school.”
Sax is the younger brother of Sean Sax, a three-time state qualifier who graduated after last season. But the younger Sax is making a name for himself, too, as he seeks his third consecutive state tournament trip. Last year, he placed fifth at 132 pounds in Class 4 after winning an individual OC championship.
“He’s picked up right where he left off,” Smith said. “He pretty much trains year-round for wrestling.”
Albrecht has even more incentive.
“He didn’t get to wrestle at state because he suffered a knee injury in his wrestle-back match – that actually qualified him for state,” Smith said. “So he showed some guts.”
Lietold also is a returning OC champion and a state qualifier.
“Andrew was at heavyweight two years ago, lost some weight and got down to 195 and performed very, very well,” Smith said. “He was another guy who suffered a season-ending injury and did not get to compete at the state meet.”
Keep eyes on 138-pound junior Aaron McDaniel, sophomores Jordan Copple (120), Issac Peterson (126), Sean Sumpter (132), junior Gavin Cochran (220) and senior heavyweight Tim Brecht. Martin Medrano could be a middle-weight.
McDaniel wrestled up at 152 pounds at districts last year.
“He’s done a great job of getting himself prepared and getting ready for this season,” Smith said. “He actually wrestled up in the freestyle nationals in Fargo and performed really well.”
Copple, Peterson and Brecht were all one match from qualifying for state last year. Sumpter didn’t break into the lineup because he was behind Gavin Sax last season.
The team also includes about 15 girls, including standouts Justice Seely and Jazzmine Seely.
“I look for big things out of them. They competed at freestyle nationals where they were All-Americans,” Smith said. “They’re going to be our leaders on our girls team.”