By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The natural assumption is that third-place and fifth-place team finishes at the Class 2 state wrestling tournament in 2018 and 2019, respectively, would have meant a busy summer of open mats and tournaments for the Logan-Rogersville Wildcats.
Nope. Not the case.
“We have multiple-sport athletes,” coach Jason Carter said. “And we encourage it.”
Among those multiple-sport athletes is one of southwest Missouri top wrestlers. Yes, all eyes will be on Jay Strausbaugh to see if he can finish his career as a three-time state champion.
Strausbaugh beat two-time state champion Joey Semerad of Monett High School in the 132-pound weight bracket’s championship match. He finished 55-1.
He is a an all-state cross country runner who also was a All-State in distance events at the state track meet. So he should be in shape coming in – a good thing for him considering he’s now a target of many.
“He loves that,” Carter said. “He knows he’s going to get the best at every match and never shies away.”
Strausbaugh is among 25 on the roster, including nine returning starters – four who advanced to state last March.
Look for Gabe Brandenburg, a junior, to compete anywhere from 138 to 152. Anyone who saw him last year will be surprised to see his physique this season. He has placed fourth at state each of the past two seasons.
“It’s like he swallowed a grenade,” Carter said. “He’s been working out.”
Another returning state medalist is Riley Williams, a junior could be at 132 this season. He placed fourth last year after being the No. 6 seed at the district tournament. He was a district runner-up.
“It didn’t surprise us at all,” Carter said. “He was much more prepared when got to districts.”
Another returning state medalist is Jonah Gann, a senior who placed sixth as a sophomore.
Gann is arguably one of those wrecking balls this year, eager to make a mark considering he suffered a season-ending knee ligament injury in his first match last season. And that was despite finishing the match, pinning a returning state medalist. He’ll compete at 126.
The rest of the projected roster includes Kit Farren (120) and Adam Reaves (220). Reaves is back after two years away from wrestling.
Senior Keaton Christian and sophomores Rylend Hacker and Carson Combs are all returning starters. Rylend and Carson are in the upper weights, while Christian could be more in the middle weights after reaching the bubble match at districts.
To Carter, last season’s fifth-place finish could have been better, but it was out of the team’s control. Two wrestlers received opening-round byes, so they couldn’t score points. The Wildcats finished with 90 points, or one point from tying fourth-place Moberly and 12 from tying third-place Odessa.
Overall, it should be a competitive room.
“Thanks to a great youth program and very strong junior high program we have a great group of freshmen coming in,” Carter said. “We have about 10 freshmen that will be joining us this year and a number of them will be asked to fill some varsity spots.”