By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Garrett Hawkins has never let his foot off the gas, so to speak, in challenging his wrestlers.
So it was no surprise – but still pretty neat – that this past offseason he roped in the University of Missouri for a camp at Branson High School, with the camp featuring not only Mizzou assistant Alex Clemsen but two-time All-American and national champion Marc Ellis.
“Our goal is the same every year – to be the best that you can be and to reach your full potential no matter if you are a varsity or JV wrestler,” said Hawkins, now in his fourth season at Branson. “I expect individuals to build off their success from last season and to pour their hearts and effort into everything we do with a winning attitude — to show grit and get out of the comfort zone by pushing themselves & teammates each and every day to be the best they can be.”
Branson is 32-22 in duals in Hawkins’ prior three seasons. Last year, the team had four top-10 team finishes at tournaments, three All-Central Ozark Conference wrestlers and three state qualifiers – including one state medalist.
About 40 wrestlers are expected to compete this season, including 10 returning starters.
The projected lineup includes Tyler Cartwright and Bryson Seymour at 106, Kyshin Isringhausen (113), senior Christian Cartwright (120), Dawson Helms (126), Trevor Velasco and Waylon Ridenger (145) and Austin Hadaller, Cade Grimm, Chase Ruda and Alejandro Berumen competing at 152.
In the upper weights, Branson looks for Caden Lorenz, Conner Candler and Sam Halloway at 160, followed by 170-pounders Ethan Stout, Wyatt Davis and Liam Mefferd; Cristian Berumen and Zak Oosawhe (182), Max Petrucelli (195), Drew Odell and Zack Delporto (220) and Sam Wood and Matt Miles competing at heavyweight.
The 132- and 138-pound weight classes are up for grabs.
Christian Cartright placed sixth at 120 pounds in Class 3 last season.
“He looks to be back in the same weight class this year,” Hawkins said. “Christian took a huge step last year at the state tournament believing in himself and wrestling with confidence. I expect him to continue growing a wrestler and have a great season this year.”
Lorenz is a two-time state qualifier. He lost in the “blood round” at state last year.
“Caden is one of the hardest-working wrestlers on the team, if not the hardest,” Lorenz said. “He has hit the weight room hard over the summer, probably added close to 20 pounds of muscle. I expect Caden to continue to complete at a high level and have a great season this year.”
A few possible “sleepers” are Petrucelli, Stout, Berumen, Isringhausen and Grimm.
Petrucelli, a senior, was two points shy of qualifying for state last season. Stout was a surprise at district and also fell a win shy of being a state qualifier. Berumen turned a corner last year, and Hawkins hopes his successful football season carries over into wrestler.
Isringhausen, a freshman, was a USA Wrestling state champion last year as an eighth-grader. He also was a junior high Central Ozark Conference champion the past two years. Grimm also has a lot of youth club experience.
“We will have a good mix of seniors through freshmen on the varsity side this year that I think will be very competitive in our area,” Hawkins said.
On the girls side, Erin Bohmont is the only returning state medalist from last year. She’ll be at 152 or 167.
“After Erin’s success last year, we have had a new recruiting class of girls that will be joining the team this year,” Hawkins said. “I think they all have a solid shot at competing with area girl teams.”