By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s the third year for Chris Lowe as the coach of the Reeds Spring High School wrestling team and, to him, it’s time for the program to take another positive step.
Sure, it had three state qualifiers last year, and returns one this season. But …
“We have to establish our identity, which I think is something we haven’t had here as of yet,” said Lowe, who was previously at Sikeston High School. “Since taking this job, I have increased the difficulty of our schedule to help us better compete at district time. Southwest Missouri is the toughest wrestling area, and we have a brutal district to get through.”
Roughly 35 boys and 10 girls are expected to be in the room this year. That includes nine returning starters.
Tyler Nance, a sophomore, was a state qualifier a year ago and is looking to compete at 113 pounds this season, although junior Caleb Allen is also listed there.
“(Nance) has worked hard when in the wrestling room this offseason,” Lowe said. “He’s very coachable and has a strong desire to win.”
The rest of the roster could see sophomore Rocky Love at 106, followed by senior Chase Johnson (120), sophomore Easton Byrne (126), senior Anthony Tolbert (132), sophomore Wyatt Rogers and senior Christian Beck at 138 and sophomores Jake McCracken and Evan Wilson at 145 and 152, respectively.
The upper weights could see senior Caden Love (160), freshman Even Crain (170), senior Kaden Kious (182) and seniors Dakota Deets (195) and Alex Bowman (220). The heavyweight role is up for grabs.
Johnson was 25-25 last year.
“Chase battled very hard in a very tough weight class and has a desire to win that is unmatched,” Lowe said. “He’s a hard worker and a team leader.”
Byrne finished 20-17 after earning a varsity spot mid-season, and Lowe cays he’s “an extremely coachable kid who is just hard-nosed.”
McCracken was 14-22 as a freshman and earned respect.
“He battled through a year of injuries, which showed his determination and sheer effort to compete,” Lowe said. “He has worked very hard in the offseason to improve.”
Wilson was 18-22 last year and returns to 152. He should be in shape, considering he’s on the football team, too.
“He’s a very competitive wrestler who battled in every match with great heart,” Lowe said. “Evan has worked very hard in becoming a better wrestler and athlete.”
Caden Love could make a difference even as a freshman.
“He comes into the year with a great attitude and looks to be a positive leader for our team,” the coach said. “He has a great work attitude while in the practice room and looks to lead by example this upcoming season.”
Kious also earned respect last year by wrestling up a weight class.
Meanwhile, the team might have a few “sleepers.” They include Rocky Love, who wrestled at 106 last year despite weighing about 75 pounds, as well as Beck and Crane.
“He has grown some and looks to be a bright spot on this year’s team,” the coach said. “His heart and technique are what makes Rocky so special.”
“Beck’s work ethic and desire hopes to help our team this season,” Love said.
Crane had a good middle school career. Allen is a move-in from Branson.
To enhance his wrestlers, Love had them compete in an Adidas Nationals and attend a University of Missouri camp at Branson High School.
The girls team will have about 10 girls. Among them is 152-pound sophomore Lexi Harris, who competed in several boys tournaments.
“She is a true competitor and has a great work ethic,” Love said. “I look for great things out of Lexi this upcoming season.”
Still, improvement is a big goal this year. The team will be assisted by Jake Fisher, a former Reeds Spring wrestler who was on the Central High School staff last year. Sam Love also will help.
“I think that 90 percent of our schedule is brutal,” Love said. “In the last year, we have added Carthage, Ozark, Waynesville, Lebanon, to the already tough schedule that includes Bolivar, Monett, Marshfield, Logan Rogersville and Willard. The level of competition is what we have to see for us to develop and raise our game.”