By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mike Frizzell was a three time All-American in college while wrestling for Missouri Valley and what was then Central Missouri State.
Before that, in high school, he was a two-time state champion at Carl Junction.
So when the head coaching job at Carl Junction came open, Frizzell couldn’t pass on the opportunity to guide his alma mater.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to come back and give back to the program that gave so much to me,” Frizzell said. “This is where it all started for me. I look forward to giving back everything it gave to me to move forward in my career.”
Frizzell spent the last two years coaching at Carl Junction Junior High and was a Missouri state official for several years before that.
One thing he’s focused on is bringing back the tradition the program used to have. He’s organized an alumni dual when the Bulldogs take on Seneca in December; the Indians are coached by Jeff Sill, a Carl Junction graduate and one of Frizzell’s good friends.
“It will be Mike Frizzell versus Jeff Sill,” Frizzell said. “We’ll have the alumni coming back, bringing our state placers back. Hopefully it will bring more excitement back to the program and spectators in the stands to support the kids. It gives them a sense of confidence when they walk out on the mat. Something I want to build on is getting the program back to where we used to have it.”
On the mat the Bulldogs return two state qualifiers in Jesse Cassatt and Cole Stewert who helped Carl Junction finish 29th in Class 3. A third qualifier, Tyler Huffman, graduated.
Cassatt, a junior, went 41-10 last year and earned third place at state at 195 pounds. Frizzell said he should enter the season with the top ranking in the state and some lofty expectations.
“He’s beat everybody else in the weight class and I don’t think anybody in 182 is coming up that’s beat him either,” he said. “We’ve got high hopes for Jesse winning a state championship this year. He’s put forth the effort, he wrestled all summer long. He went to Fargo for the high school nationals and went 2-2 in both freestyle and Greco. He’s building on top of the foundation for sure.”
Stewert, also a junior, went 29-24 and qualified at 145 pounds. Huffman was 35-12 at 285 pounds.
“I look for Cole to have a really good season,” Frizzell said. “He’s very powerful, a very explosive wrestler. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”
Carl Junction graduated four wrestlers from last year’s district lineup; the Bulldogs placed seventh in the Class 3 District 3 tournament.
Gone are Holden Hughes (132), Dalton Honey (152), Kobe Maxwell (170) and Huffman (285). The Bulldogs were open at 106 and 113 pounds. A couple other starters aren’t wrestling this year.
Isiac Shields, a senior, returns at 160 pounds after going 36-13 last year. Junior Ethan Walker returns at 138 pounds after a 23-26 record. Junior Wyatt Ross will return around 170 pounds and Micah Lieberman, a senior, will be the heavyweight.
A large group of freshmen will help fill out the lineup. Lucas Walker, a multiple state champion from the kids program, will wrestle at 106. Mekhi McGarry will wrestle at 120 or 126, Chance Benford will be at 132, Arlen Wakefield will be between 126 and 132 and Cayden Bolinger will be around 170. In addition, a transfer from Liberty, Javon White, will be around 145 pounds.
“I know we’re going to be young but I think we’re going to be very competitive,” Frizzell said.
To that end he’s added some tougher competition to the schedule like the Harrisonville Holiday Tournament that brings in some of the top teams from Kansas City, St. Louis and central Missouri.
“It will be a good eye opener and a good test for these guys to know where they stand early in the season,” Frizzell said. “Looking at the lineup it’s hard to tell. I know we’ll be competitive but if we don’t have five or six kids at the state tournament I’ll be very surprised.”
The Bulldogs open the season at home against Carthage on Dec. 3.