By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In football-mad Webb City, you’d think the wrestling room would be a lonely place.
Far from it, actually, and that’s why eighth-year coach Larron Hurst is optimistic about the winter ahead.
While the team graduated 182-pound, Class 3 state champion Hunter Vanlue, the Cardinals return 11 guys with varsity experience, including an intriguing sophomore group which is highlighted by returning state qualifier Josh Copher.
“He brings a different dynamic to our lineup,” Hurst said of Copher, a sophomore who may well compete again at 113 pounds this season. “He’s an energetic individual, and he feeds off that energy. And he’s a sponge.”
Copher apparently was a sponge around Vanlue last year and then competed in campus over the summer.
“One of his goals is that he won’t be out-worked,” Hurst said. “He’ll be a key in the leadership role vacated by Hunter. He watched Hunter’s thought process and preparation. So we’re looking for him to set the tone this year.”
Hurst hopes Copher takes the next step in the maturation process by sticking to a match plan. If so, the results will be there – and could well help motivate the other sophomores.
More on them in a minute. Fortunately, the Cardinals have two returning captains in heavyweight Matt Miller and 160-pound Gibson Sweet, both juniors.
“Matt’s a great kid and we’re looking for a great season from him,” Hurst said. “We’re looking for leadership too from Sweet. He put the time in in the spring. Once football gets over, we hope he slides right into those good habits he created this summer.”
The sophomores include Kyler Carter (106), Sergio Perez, Jackson Taylor (126), Reuben Lenker (145 to 152), Kade Hicks (145 to 160) and Isaiah Gayman (160 to 170) and Ethan Trueblood. Also look for Pryce Mason, a freshman, at 113 or 120.
“Those sophomores have been a good class since they’ve been wrestling together for awhile,” Hurst said. “We haven’t had a group like that in quite some time – maybe a decade probably. It’s the first group that’s a depth group. We don’t have to bring them along first and throw them to the wolves.”
This year marks Hurt’s 18th season as a head coaching dating back to his days in Lakin, Kan., and his eighth year leading Webb City’s program. He hopes more than 35 wrestlers turn out.
“I’m excited about how the room is going to end up being,” Hurst said. “There is going to be some competition for some slots. I was pleased with what I saw over the summer. That’s why we say it’s not about today or tomorrow. It’s about February.”