By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The great thing about high school wrestling in the Ozarks is that most coaches were wrestlers themselves and truly love the sport.
A case in point is Josh Factor.
Given he wrestled for one of California’s premier high school programs, he could have easily thrown his hands up in the air and walked away in the past decade coaching at McDonald County High School.
But while filling each weight class – and recruiting the hallways is a chore – Factor is still at it, and for good reason. Last season, five guys advanced to the Class 3 state tournament, and he’s got some talent in that room again.
Mainly, Factor wants to see McDonald County crown its first state champion wrestler in history.
“This year, we’re bringing back our three state placers so we are pretty optimistic,” said Factor, now in his 14th season at McDonald County and ninth as head coach. “Now, you don’t worry about recruiting kids to compete, but that’s where we’re at.”
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Factor anticipates about 25 wrestlers on the opening-day practice roster – about 15 less than his goal – but that’s a healthy challenge, if not a reminder that the rewards down the road could be enormous.
For instance, among the returnees is 113-pound sophomore Oscar Ortiz, who last season reached the semifinals in the 106-pound weight class and then placed third. It was a strong showing for a freshman, and giving rise to the idea that he could one day make McDonald County history.
“He worked pretty hard in the offseason, going to Greco-Roman and freestyle tournaments,” Factor said. “Getting those kinds of matchups will help him to be prepared for what he’ll be up against.”
Jacob Gerow, now a senior at 126, placed fifth at 120 last year in his third state tournament. His highest finish was fourth.
“He has a tremendous amount of talent,” Factor said. “This summer, he really matured. I think he’s come to the understanding that this is his last opportunity.”
Tinker Kinser, also a senior, placed sixth last year at 285. He is a two-time state qualifier and has beaten Carl Junction’s Zeke Wall, a state runner-up, three of five times.
McDonald County has five weight classes that are up in the air, with one of their better wrestlers recently relocating to Texas.
Fortunately, there are a few returning starters in David Lazalde (120), Jack Teague (152), Kevin Sackryas (160), Wilson Menas (170), Timber Teague (182) and Brandon Andrew (195).
“It’s wide open,” Factor said of varsity slots. “There are a few who have potential. It’s come down to how they perform when the district tournament comes around. We’ve got a lot of kids who are knocking on the door.”