By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Six years ago, Kris Wood was hired to coach the Hillcrest High School wrestling program. At the time, only four boys turned out.
That figure is now almost 30 each of the past two seasons, and he attributes some of the numbers to the program at Reed Middle School.
“I’m no longer getting questions on what is wrestling from kids because a lot of them have competed or know someone who has at the middle school level,” Wood said. “I’m really trying to translate some of that success we have in the local area into a room that is full of guys that can go out there and compete with schools.”
The projected roster could look like this: sophomores Gavyn Walker (113), Alx Glanden (120), Isaac Hann (132) and Immanuel Jackson (145) along with senior Daytona Berg (152). In the upper weights, it could be junior Nathaniel Berg (170), sophomore Aleczander Rodgers (182), sophomore Jackson Moritz (195), sophomore Alex Hopper (220) and junior Jacob Gott (285).
Berg had the best winning percentage on the team last year, finishing 12-3.
“He’s always been a very mature wrestler and a great team leader,” Wood said. “But he is also starting to think about how his actions outside of the room impact the culture of our team. He’s very coachable and wants to impress on the mat.”
Glanden is looking to drop from 126 to 120 this year.
“He is probably our best technical wrestler and goes full out for all six minutes,” Wood said. “He’s able to wear down some guys who are better technically and take over in the third period in a lot of matches thanks to his conditioning.”
Of all Hillcrest wrestlers, Gott was the closest to qualifying for the state tournament.
“He’s put on some weight and has gained some much needed confidence and the ability to go upper body and throw some of those bigger guys,” Wood said. “He turned the corner for us after the winter break and wrestled some really tough kids to close matches. Despite being undersized, he’s able to out-muscle a lot of those heavyweights.”
Rodgers has transferred in from Parkview.
“I got two texts from local coaches letting me know, which is always a good sign, and I have him in class and love the levity he brings and his ability to reach out to other students and make fast friends,” Wood said. “I remember wrestling him last year and he beat a senior in a close match thanks to his conditioning and wearing this guy down.”
Keep an eye on Walker, too.
“He’s a kid that always takes what we learn in the practice room and takes it out into a match,” Wood said. “Getting him a medal at the JV Ozark Conference Tournament was a big motivational boost for him that could carry over into this year.”
Because tournaments have been canceled, Wood is looking at duals for possible team success.
“Many tournaments have been canceled, leaving us to focus on our duals, something that can be done for the first time for me,” Wood said. “Ordinarily, we’d have so many opens that winning a dual became secondary to our objectives. But now we have a real shot at competing at these duals.”
Wood said he will be recruiting the hallways in hopes that girls will compete this year. Injuries and transfers have emptied an already small roster.