Fifteen wrestlers will make up Tyler Consolidated's varsity wrestling team this season which is a good number to fill the 14 weight classes in West Virginia throughout 2014.
Unfortunately, the Silver Knights have an abundance of middle weight athletes, a few higher weight competitors and very few low weight wrestlers on their roster meaning head coach Chad Snider will have his work cut out for him selecting the best wrestlers for the weight classes he can fill.
"The weight classifications have changed again this year, and we have several guys fitting into the middle weight classes," he said. "That's going to mean a lot of wrestle-offs throughout the week to see who will represent that weight class at the next meet, dual or tournament."
Silver Knight wrestlers 2013/14
The following fourteen weight classifications will be used in all high school meets this season: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285 (heavyweight). In a good week, the Knights may be able to fill nine, possibly 10, leaving at least four weight classes open at each competition which will turn into an automatic forfeit if the other team has a wrestler at that weight.
"Yeah, it's a shame we don't have the wrestlers to fill every weight class, but that's not something we're going to dwell on," Snider said. "We're going to work with what we have and do our best in the weight classes we can fill. Not every team out there is fortunate enough to have the athletes for every class so it all evens out. We'll work hard individually and the team wins will come."
"The kids are working hard and are improving, especially in strength training. We work on basics and techniques in every practice and I'm pretty happy with the way things are looking for several of them."
The Knights lost five solid seniors to graduation last year in Joe Henthorn, Dustin Tawney, Jay Earley and Rafe Bailes, with Henthorn being the only Knight representative at the state tournament last year.
The lone senior and proven leader on the 2014 Silver Knight wrestling team is Josh Ruble, a three year wrestler returning to compete at 145.
"Josh has been with the program for three years and has shown continued improvement every year," Snider said.
"He's a hard worker and very athletic. A good fit at 145. He's been working on his technique and it shows. He's a good leader and sets a good example for the younger kids."
The only junior on the team, also designated to compete at 145 pounds is Tyler Knox, also a proven competitor. "Tyler Knox is back with some good experience, but his weight class is going to be a tough one to get out of," the coach said. "He did very well in middle school and with his gaining some strength, we're looking for him to have a good year this year as well. We'll be counting on him to be a leader along with Ruble."
Nine sopohomores will vie for mat time for the Silver this season, the majority of them seeking spots in the middle weight classes: Chase Cooper, 138; Bobby Dennis II, 132; Austin Spencer, heavyweight; Gabriel Clegg, 182; William Chapman, 138; Tyler Johnson, 126; Doug Wagner, 132; Zach Bonner, 106; and Nathan Eddy, 220.
"We've got a lot of nice sophomores," Snider said. "Assistant coach Steven Blake and I are looking for at least a couple of these kids to step-up and wrestle well this year. They all show promise, a couple more than others of course, but they all are capable of having successful seasons."
One shining light among the sophomore class returns at the heavyweight position once again this year. "Last year Austin Spencer won more than 30 matches," coach Snider said. "He was our most successful individual wrestler, but he was just a freshman going up against upperclassmen most of the time. His opponents generally had more mat experience and more strength. It's a very tough weight class for a freshman, but he learned a lot last year."
"This year he's worked hard in the weight room, gained some weight, and we've really worked on strength training with him. I don't think it will be so easy to push him around this season. In fact, the most difficult thing for us is finding a practice partner for him."
Rookies on the Silver Knight mats this season will be four freshmen, ranking from low to high weights: Ben Pratt, 106; Logan Smith, 152; Josh Lashbrook, 152; and Brandon Keys, 195.
"Our freshmen are simply that, freshmen," Snider said. "They show promise, but they need to keep working and learning in order to keep improving and succeed."
All in all, coach Snider believes he has wrestlers that are capable of not only having good records come Regional time, but possibly place high enough to make the state tournament.
"Last year we only had one guy advance to state in Joe Henthorn," he said. "Who knows who or how many we could have this year if everything pans out?"
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us yet, we can't let up. We'll have guys at the same weight having to wrestle-off in practice before meets, duals and tournaments to see who will get to compete, but at the same time, it's going to be tough to compete in a dual meet and get everybody the experience they need with so many at the same or near weight not getting to compete because they lost out in practice."
"With any luck everything will work it's way out in the practice room and by the end of the season, we'll have our best wrestlers on the mats."
For now coach Snider and his team are simply looking forward to their first competition, coming up on Dec. 13. The team will host the annual Larry Ritchie Memorial Wrestling Tournament, named for long time beloved wrestling coach Larry Ritchie who, until Snider took over, was the only head coach to ever coach a Silver Knight wrestler on any mat, including Snider himself.
"Coach Richie started this tournament and we want to honor him every year by continuing to hold it," he said. "It would also be nice to do well as a team."
The tournament is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with ten teams competing for the top spot in each of the 14 weight classes. When he started the tournament, coach Richie put out the call for his "wrestling family", Knight wrestling alumnus, to return to the school to lend a helping hand. And they did. In force.
Coach Snider said he would also welcome back Knight alumnus to support the team and the tournament.
"We're in need of table workers, scorers, runners, etc. to help out to make the tournament run smoothly," he said. "We will welcome any help that we can get."