By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Coach Grant Leighty’s past two seasons of rebuilding the Camdenton High School wrestling program into his own image has led to some impressive numbers entering this season.
But there is one number that stands out – zero.
That’s the number of holiday tournaments Camdenton will compete in. No, not the Kinloch Classic. Not anything.
“We can focus on coming out during the second half and hopefully be hitting on all cylinders,” Leighty said. “We have some very strong seniors and juniors, plus a couple of sophomores that will be in the hunt for some hardware at the state tournament. We just want to come out and get better each week and be where we need to be come February. I feel we have the wrestlers to do just that.”
The Lakers certainly have depth, with more than 50 wrestlers in the room. That is 10 more than what the roster had this time a year ago. Plus, there are 12 returning starters, including four who advanced to the state tournament – and one who placed.
It’s an interesting scenario, considering Leighty spent 24 seasons in high school coaching before taking the Camdenton job. He was mostly at Clinton and Plattsburg, and several of his teams at both schools finished in the top 10 at state tournaments, with his 2005 Plattsburg team placing second in Class 1 and his 2007 Clinton team placing fourth in Class 2.
Camdenton’s returning state placer is Cort Petty, a senior who returns to the 220-pound weight class. He transferred in before last season and then finished 35-11, won the Ozark Conference Tournament and placed fifth at state.
“We knew what a talent we had acquired,” Leighty said. “He is a phenomenal athlete on the wrestling mat and football field. He is one of the standout defensive players on Camdenton’s football team. … With the workout partners he will be with, we fully expect to see him make a strong run at a state championship this coming season.”
The rest of the projected roster features freshmen Logan Tibben and Anden Vanskike at 106, senior Jacob Fuglsang (113), sophomore Cale Bentley (120), freshman Casper Rhodenhizer and sophomore Evan Farris (126), freshman Arden Neal (132), junior Grant Garrett (138), senior Jacob Elegler (145) and sophomore Aidren Kline (152).
The upper weights include senior Dakota Baller (160), junior Kaiden Davis (170), senior Mason Draper (182), senior Dakota Davis (195), and either Marcus Stephens or Wyatt Mueller at 225.
Fuglsang and Garrett are returning state qualifiers. Fuglsang is a three-year starter who made the finals in almost every tournament last season and was 2-2 at state.
Garrett won the USA/Missouri Cadet Greco-Roman state tournament and placed second in freestyle, meaning he qualified to represent Team Missouri at the National Duals this past summer. He also competed in the Fargo, N.D., summer tournaments.
“He was able to wrestle many matches against some of the best wrestlers in the country at these three events,” Leighty said. “Grant will be ready to make a run at the state championship this upcoming season.”
Bentley has moved in from Iowa. The 126-pound weight class could be fun to watch in the room alone. Farris had a successful junior varsity season last year, working out with the team’s top guys. Rhodenizer competed over the summer, joining Team Missouri in the Schoolboy National in Michigan, where he placed eighth in Greco-Roman.
Ziegler finished third at the Ozark Conference tournament last year. Kline was a big surprise last season, moving up from JV and eventually placing third at the Ozark Conference tournament.
Kaiden Davis looked healthy during the football season, an encouraging sign after having dealt with injuries and illness near the end of last wrestling season. Draper broke a hand during the Eldon dual last season and also is eager to get back on the mat.
Dakota Davis is worth watching, too. As a freshman, he finished 34-15 and just missed qualifying for state, losing 5-4 in sudden death overtime in the bubble match at districts.
“He is one of the most talented kids we have in our lineup. Literally he was a boy among men last year. He was freshman competing in a weight class filled with juniors and seniors,” Leighty said. “I feel that if he had been on the other side of the (district) bracket, he would have qualified. His athleticism and toughness plays a lot into that team’s success. (He and Petty) will help each other to a very successful season and ready to make a run at this year state championship.”
Stephens is a returning starter who had seven overtime matches last season, winning three. Mueller is a move-in from Indiana.
“Marcus and Wyatt will bring the competitiveness to this weight class that will only make each other better,” Leighty said.
Camdenton had only two girls last year, Taylor Mustain and Belle Simpson, but looks to have about 10 out this season.
“Taylor had and outstanding season last year and finished in the top six at the state tournament and a had a record of 34-5,” Leighty said. “Belle was a first-year wrestler that got better each week and ended up making it to the bubble match at district. She has been working extremely hard during the pre-season to prepare for the upcoming season.”