By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The old line about “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish” seems like a worn out cliché. However, it’s an important one for Jason Carter.
After all, the Rogersville High School wrestling coach can sell the reminder of last year as a good motivator this year. The Wildcats suffered through an injury-plagued season, only to find momentum at the end.
Put it this way, they now have four returning state qualifiers and a number of others who could make an impact.
“We felt like that was something we could build on, and the kids have done just that,” said Carter, now in his 19th season of coaching overall.
Among the returning state qualifiers is Jay Strausbaugh, who as a freshman finished as the state runner-up, losing to four-time state champion Conner Brown of Oak Grove. Strausbaugh was the only wrestler, in districts or state, to wrestle a full six-minute match against Brown. He’ll likely compete between 126 and 138 pounds this year.
“He was a tough, tough competitor all year long and never gave an inch,” Carter said. “He’s a great technician and is tough on the mat. He’s kind of the perfect example of what you want in wrestling.”
Lucas Campbell, a senior, will move up to 132, 138 or 145. He is a two-time state qualifier who placed sixth a year ago.
Meanwhile, Jonah Gann, another sophomore, returns after advancing to state last year, when he also led the team in points.
“Jonah exceeded expectations as a freshman,” Carter said. “In the offseason, (he) lifted a lot of weights, so we have high hopes for him.”
Carter’s son, Brock, suffered through injuries last year before reaching state at 126. He is expected to move up to between 138 and 152.
“He just spent a lot of time in the weight room this summer and did everything he could,” Carter said, before joking, “If he better perform, or else he doesn’t get dinner.”
Caleb Swearingin, a senior, looks to be a state qualifier after missing much time last year because of a broken hand.
“He never got on track,” Carter said. “But I’ve seen him doing everything to get back.”
Rogersville also could receive a boost from freshmen Gabe Brandenburg, Riley Williams and Junior Preston Sleeth in the lower weight classes. Owen Christian, a sophomore, could be between 120 and 132 while seniors Cameron Chesick and Chesley McDonald will be in the upper weights.
Another name to know is Barret Beaird, a sophomore who moved in from Ozark.
“We have a lot of freshmen coming up,” Carter said. “Our youth program has done an amazing job preparing them. And we have kids who have been in and out of varsity competition. They’ve worked hard and we think could step up.”