By Chris Parker
Nevada boys wrestling has solid numbers this season with a good mix of freshmen while the girls team has its largest roster since starting the program.
The leading returner for the boys team is state qualifier Ken Johnson. The senior will wrestle either 215 or 285 pounds this season.
“His experience at the state tournament last year will no doubt be a launching point for him,” Nevada boys wrestling coach Forrest Drury said. “He really peaked at the right time last year, gaining confidence on his feet which put him into the big dance.”
Junior Tyler Longobardi (165/175) is another veteran of the lineup.
“Tyler might be our most experienced wrestler in the room, in addition to being one of the hardest workers,” Drury said. “Tyler has a really well-rounded skillset, combined with loads of experience, which we hope will translate to a really positive season for him.”
Senior Joe Fahnestock (138/144/150) has shown marked improvement.
“Joe Fahnestock is a senior who has made leaps and bounds of improvement over the past year or so,” Drury said. “The skills and technique are finally catching up to the effort he has put in over the past few years, and we think it will bode well for his chances this year.”
Juniors Henry Campbell (165/175) and Luke Anderson (190/215) also return.
Senior Skyler Mashek is back at 285 after injuries held him out almost all of last season.
“Skyler had a great football campaign, and we are excited to see him parlay that onto the mat,” Drury said.
Senior Blake Cox is a newcomer who will wrestle in the 138-150 range.
“Another newcomer is Blake Cox, who is another senior coming off a successful football season,” Drury said. “Away from wrestling for a few years, Blake has decided to make one last go of it in his senior season. Early returns look promising for Blake to shock some people this season.”
Drury expects Nevada to have a strong dual squad.
“We are very excited about the possibility of having close to a full lineup,” Drury said. “Any time you can field a full 14 for duals, the chances of winning goes up. Our junior class has been a constant in the lineup for a couple years, and we hope we can sprinkle some of that senior leadership on top to become a really tough dual team. Our district is always tough, but we are hopeful to get a handful of state qualifiers this year. At the Big Dance, anything can happen.”
Nevada boys wrestling opens the season on Nov. 29 at Reeds Spring in a triangular with the host Wolves and Rogersville.
Nevada girls wrestling has big goals with strong numbers this season.
“This year we have the largest team we have had since starting girls wrestling at Nevada,” Nevada girls head coach Jerrod Alexander. “We have 11 girls on the team and return several from last year’s high school team. In addition to last year’s returners, we have a combination of newcomers and girls with wrestling experience at the middle school and youth wrestling levels.”
Alexander expects Averi Dawn (sophomore, 100), Teresa Dawn (senior, 140/145) and Ella Heathman (sophomore, 155) to be the team’s top wrestlers.
Alexander on Dawn: “Averi has the most experience in wrestling on our team and she has been competing for several years. Last year she had a record of 24-17 and lost a close match in the bubble round at the district tournament. Last year Averi competed while consistently weighing in 10-plus under the 100-pound mark. This year she will be closer in weight to her competition which will help her tremendously. Averi is a smart wrestler and works really hard in practice to be the best she can be.”
Alexander on Dawn: “Dawn is another wrestler that we expect to have a successful year. She will wrestle in the 140/145 pounds range. This is Teresa’s third year in the varsity lineup. She won 28 matches last year and is a great leader for our team.”
Alexander on Heathman: “Ella sustained a knee injury in the first match of her season last year and missed the rest of the year. Ella is a first-team all-state catcher for the Lady Tiger softball team. Ella is strong and physical on the mat. We were really excited for her freshman year last year unfortunately she had an injury and missed the entire season. We are really excited to have her back and looking forward to watching her compete. Ella is a tremendous worker and leader for us. She makes everyone around her better in many aspects.”
Sydnee Baldwin (sophomore, 110/115) and Leandra Shotts (sophomore, 140/145) are returning letterwinners.
Lauren Sloniker (freshman, 125/130), Jenny Aguilar (freshman, 190), Drew Leer (freshman, 235), Freyja Sherman (freshman, 120), Alexis Britz (senior, 120/125) and Mallory Wiggans (junior, 135) are newcomers who will see varsity mat time.
“We are looking forward to this season and building off of the successes that we have had so far in building the Lady Tiger Wrestling Program,” Alexander said. “Last year we finished as team champions at the Republic Wrestling tournament and earned top three finishes as a team in a few others. We are looking to continue to be competitive in tournaments. We think that we have several girls that have the talent to qualify for the state tournament and will work to be wrestling at our best when districts come.”