By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s not just the numbers. That’s what coach Larron Hurst will tell you about the projected 52 wrestlers out this season for Webb City High School.
Instead, it’s what it’ll mean in practice – each weight class will have a wrestling partner.
“This is a good group of kids. They enjoy each other,” Hurst said. “And if one doesn’t have a good day in the room, his wrestling partner will be able to tell him, ‘Hey, what happened?’”
In other words, competition will be healthy for the Cardinals, who are likely to have 52 on the roster – including 12 return starters, four who are state qualifiers. Those numbers are the best in Hurst’s nine seasons as coach.
Among the ones to watch are senior Matt Miller (220 pounds) and juniors Kyler Carter (106), Josh Copher (120-126), Kade Hicks (160-182). All are state qualifiers.
Carter could be something. He placed sixth at state a year ago and finished with 51 wins, doing so despite a late-season illness.
“If he has the year I believe he can have, he’s going to be in that conversation,” Hurst said. “We’ve got to keep him focused one (match) at a time. He has the experience where not one (tool) exceeds one of the others. He’s solid.”
Copher qualified for state in March 2017 but lost in a district tournament bubble match as a sophomore.
“He’s had a good summer,” Hurst said. “Knowing Josh and being around him, I know what he’s capable of. He’s looking forward to the challenge. His weight class last year was just brutal at districts.”
Hicks finished with 38 wins a year ago.
“I don’t have to worry about his work ethic,” Hurst said. “He’ll break things down to where he knows what he needs to work on and then move on to the next one. He had some good wins and some tough losses last year. So, I know he’s going to be a leader and will be a captain.”
Miller will be in that role, too, in the upper weights after advancing to state last year.
“Having his leadership and durability is his biggest thing,” Hurst said. “He doesn’t say much, just works hard.”
The rest of the projected roster includes junior Jackson Taylor (126-128), sophomores Roger Carranco and Brayden Hollingsworth, juniors Ruben Lenker and Sergio Perez (152-160) and senior Gibson Sweet (160).
“Sweet is an unorthodox wrestler. He can put himself in bad situations and, all of a sudden, will be in a great position,” Hurst said. “He’s a four-year wrestler and we’re excited. He’s just a good athletes.”
Other notables include freshmen Dantley Gilbert (113-126), Brantley Carter (126-138), Cooper Crouch (152-160) and Buddy Belcher (195-220).
Most on the team are dual-sport athletes.
“We love that,” Hurst said. “Some coaches want them to specialize. Me, I want you to compete for the brand, so we compete for the Bird. I want them going out for football and, when it’s done, come into the wrestling room. All we want is for them to compete.”