By Kary Booher
If you check out the schedule for the Rolla High School wrestling team, coach Marty Hauck isn’t exactly taking it easy on his Bulldogs.
In December alone, they travel to both the Kansas City Stampede and a tournament in Neosho, home to a state championship team in six of the past seven years.
So, why they challenge?
“We finished ninth last year at (Class 3) state,” Hauck said, “and I’m not happy with that.”
In other words, while it may be only his second season at Rolla since coming over from St. James, Hauck is raising the bar. Then again, he has to, given what awaits in the Class 3 District 3 Tournament, which includes Neosho, Camdenton, Carl Junction, Carthage, Helias Catholic, Republic and Willard, to name a few.
Rolla returns four state qualifiers, including Coleman Brainard and Gage Maxwell. Brainard placed second two years ago and was third last season at 120 but projects to compete 145 pounds this year. Maxwell placed third at 138 pounds last year but is listed at 170 in the early going.
The other state qualifiers are 132-pound Tristan Barr (fourth at 126), and 182-pound Seth Veatch (sixth at 170). Barr was a state runner-up two years ago.
Even better, Rolla anticipates 70 wrestlers the first week of practice.
Those numbers should not come as a surprise, given wrestling is Hauck’s passion. You see, the 1988 St. James graduate coached at his alma mater for nine seasons before taking the Rolla job a year ago. His St. James teams compiled 88 dual wins and qualified five wrestlers for the Class 2 state tournament in his final season.
“Things have definitely improved from last year. It just takes the kids time to get used to me,” Hauck said. “The enthusiasm is definitely there.”
The projected lineup has Anthony Sederburg at 106, Mason Harrison at 113, Zach Fennell at 120, Justin MacEnaney at 126, Lucas Lambeth and Kevin Casadas at 138, Noah Whittaker at 152, Bryce O’Connor at 160, Jacob Dobkins at 195, Justin Briggs and Garrett Holmes at 220 and Alton Heyer and Aaron Mercer at heavyweight. But with a large turnout, others could very well compete for starting time.
Brainard suffered an overtime loss in a state semifinal last season.
“He spent a lot of time in the offseason working,” Hauck said. “When I opened the weight room at 5:30 in the morning, he was in there three to four days a week.”
Barr competed in the big Fargo, S.D., freestyle tournament, where he placed fourth.
“And he wasn’t happy with that,” Hauck said. “He wants to be the conference champion four years in a row, and he’s got a lot of motivation on his side right now.”
Among notable storylines is Heyer, who stepped aside at the end of last year and allowed a then-senior to reclaim the heavyweight varsity spot in order to compete in districts.
Hauck is understandable excited.
“I feel like I’ve grown a ton as a coach,” Hauck said. “Our kids have gotten better and better. That what I want to see.”