(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With plenty of new faces to go along with an already solid core, this year's Sikeston wrestling team will enter the upcoming season looking to build on a successful 2010 campaign that saw five Bulldogs qualify for the Class 3 state tournament.
"With the numbers the way they are we're all really excited," Sikeston head coach Seth Harrell said. "We're obviously looking to improve every year and when you know you have a full room of kids at the junior high and high school level, that's good stuff. It gives us some things to work with."
Among those returning for another shot at a state title will be three of last year's five state qualifiers. Making the trip for the first time last season was senior Kenton Robinson and junior Jacob Stinnett while senior Blake Angle qualified for the third-straight year.
Though none of the Bulldogs were able to place in last year's tournament, all three have high hopes of improving on their finish.
"I feel like it was a good experience for me being just my junior year,"said Robinson. "I hope to make it back to state, do better than I did last and hopefully place this year this year."
With his best finish at state coming his freshman year when he placed sixth, Angle knows this is his last chance to best that mark.
"Last year I had a really good year," Angle said. "I just didn't finish strong in districts, then had some hard draws at state and lost in overtime.
"This being my last year it means a lot to me. Just like with (our soccer team this season), it's your last chance so you have to go out hard and you have nothing to lose so you have to push yourself."
Other key contributers returning from last year's team include seniors Ben Walker, Clayton Driskill and Austin Henson.
"Those guys will be at our heavier weights," Harrell said. "They've been in our program ever since they were in eighth grade. I've worked with those guys every single year.
"They're constantly getting better and they're always improving. They will be in the same spot in the lineup as they were last year."
While his team has its share of battled-tested veterans, Harrell also sees plenty of up-and-comers he hopes will be big contributors this season.
"Richard Garcia is a kid that I think at our lower weights could do well for us," Harrell said. "I think he's picked up things and worked hard throughout the summer.
"Clay Porter would be another one that really got much better throughout the football season. He's become a tough, aggressive kid and I also think they can help us somewhere in our lineup."
Harrell said so far one of the more challenging parts of practice has been developing the newcomers quickly while also making sure the veterans are continuing to improve.
"You have to try to work on things and there's moves for everybody," he said. "We have to do a very good job of mixing our moves together, but at the same time sticking to the fundamentals and our philosophy of what we're trying to do as a team.
"We just want to make sure the younger guys are picking up on what we're trying do and at the same time the older guys are getting better. We have to make sure that we keep that gap close so that way we can keep our competition in the room fairly good."
With a total of 27 kids coming out for the team this season, Harrell expects the next few weeks of practice and the early part of the season to really help him see where everyone stands in the lineup.
"We have a great mix of kids," Harrell said. "It's to the point where we have so many of them it's hard to see where we're going to be at in a couple weeks.
"Because we have so many guys that really haven't been battle tested yet it's going to be interesting to see what happens once we throw them out into a competition."