Wrestling Preview: Cougars back for year 2, Panthers field youth
It’s year two for the North Harrison wrestling program. And with it, the Cougars have a pair of home matches set for fans in their community.
At Corydon Central, it’s a continuing of building back up the sport in the wrestling room.
It’s a young squad for both sides of the county. Here is a look at each team:
It may be a small group in the Corydon Central wrestling room, but coach Regan Gusler believes they have room to grow in the upcoming months.
In the season-opener duel against Crawford County, the Panthers gave up 30 points in forfeits. Gusler said he hopes at the first big tournament, Corydon Central will fill 10 of the 14 weight classes.
‘We struggled to fill classes last year,’ Gusler said. ‘We have one senior, no juniors and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. Jeff Schreck is doing a great job with our junior high group. We have a good group of seventh and eighth graders that are going to be good.’
For a high school coach, it takes patience waiting for younger kids to develop. The base at the high school level, however, is strong.
‘These guys are all good, smart kids,’ Gusler said. ‘When we faced Crawford, they were a veteran team. I think our guys took everything that happened well. Some of our guys need to see some live high school matches.’
During the first month, Gusler said there is a lot of technique and review that goes on during practices along with building stamina and strength.
The lone returning senior is Dylan Raisor. Also back is sophomore Chase Straub, who found success wrestling at 220 pounds as a freshman.
‘Guys like Straub and Raisor are much further along technically than the other guys, so they look better this time of year,’ Gusler said. ‘Raisor is going to be our 132. He’s pretty good, and that weight is his best path out of regional, which is his goal. He’s our cagey veteran and really our only one.’
Gusler said Raisor, being a senior, has shown a serious attitude and more focus on improvement.
‘He’s our most knowledgeable wrestler in the room, so a lot of guys are leaning on him to learn too,’ Gusler said.
Straub has physically matured since his freshman year. Gusler said his goal for Straub is to be more aggressive on his feet.
‘If he can get a good solid take-down, he’s going to be tough to beat,’ Gusler said. ‘It will be interesting to see how his season goes. He loves it and is a hard worker.’
Chris Radcliff returns as a 195 competitor as well.
‘They are enthusiastic,’ Gusler said of the younger group. ‘It is a tedious sport to try and learn. They are really good about trying to pick up entire moves. They are figuring out the setup and the counter. This group will turn out to be real good. If we can get that group of freshmen to stay around, because they have a good foundation, they will be pretty good.’
Bryson Rowley is a freshman 106 competitor that is looked to have some success early.
‘We expect some big things out of Bryson,’ Gusler said. ‘His dad was a successful wrestler. Lukas Faith, his dad was a wrestler, so he has some working knowledge there. Tips from dad helps.’
The main key is getting through the first month of training. It’s a jump from junior high wrestling for the youngsters.
‘By the time we get to the Old Capital, they will be different wrestlers,’ Gusler said. ‘That Crawford match will seem like so long ago. It’s getting through the first month that can be tough on guys.’
Year two at North Harrison ushers in Dusty Rhodes to the coaching helm. Rhodes served as an assistant coach during the inaugural season in Ramsey.
Interest in wrestling continues to build in Cougar country. Rhodes has 27 athletes out for the wrestling team and seeks to build on experiences learned from last season.
‘We had success last year in our first year, and this year I was given the opportunity to take us into the second year,’ Rhodes said. ‘What I am teaching these young men and women ” we have two ladies on the team ” is respect parents, respect authority of school and respect the sport. You have to be disciplined on and off the mat.’
There is courtesy being taught in the wrestling room. The grapplers may be in a classroom located in the middle school, but they makes the best use of their space.
‘Some of the courtesy we are trying to foster is looking out for one another,’ Rhodes said. ‘We have a unique way of breaking down after practice. We don’t put all our hands in and say ‘Go Cougars.’ We shake hands and pat each other on the back. I encourage them to say ‘Have a good night’ to their teammates and coaches.’
In the first year, the Cougars had some success, including sending Kohana Wilks to the semi-state level of the state tournament. Wilks graduated from a North Harrison team that finished fifth among 11 squads at the Jeffersonville Sectional.
Rhodes said his captain, Coleman Biddle, is one of three seniors. Biddle is coming out of a stellar football season in which he led the Cougars in tackles.
‘He credits wrestling last year with helping his senior year of football,’ Rhodes said.
Additional seniors are Austin Miller and regional qualifier Elijah Nash.
‘Austin Miller is a returning wrestler and was a first-year wrestler last year,’ the coach said. ‘He’s our leader of fitness and training. He’s a very disciplined young man. Elijah Nash is our technical leader. He has years of experience. He wrestled at Floyd Central before moving here. We lean on him when we have technique questions because he has great knowledge and experience. We lean on those leaders.’
Also back is sophomore Jayden Skaggs, who was a regional qualifier as a freshmen in the lightest weight class.
Out of 27 wrestlers, only one is a junior to go with the three seniors.
‘We have 24 underclassmen,’ Rhodes said. ‘We don’t have room for everybody, but we are happy with the space we have. We have a lot to learn. Last year was a great learning experience.’
A daily message is about life lessons.
‘It all starts with respect,’ Rhodes said. ‘If they go to wrestling in college, go to college or go to the workforce after high school, I am trying to give them real-life scenarios and how to handle adversity. Also, learn to win. Life won’t always give you a win. I told the parents you have to let these young athletes be independent. They have to win on their own and lose on their own. Do not interfere with that process.’
Adding Ryan Hutchinson, a former state-qualifying wrestler at Eastern (Pekin) and Corydon Central, to the coaching staff has been a plus. Andy Nash also joined the staff.
‘Ryan has been a great asset,’ Rhodes said. ‘He’s not only technical, but, outside of being a sheriff’s deputy, he’s also into MMA.’
Hosting matches is a plus, too.
‘We are really excited about hosting matches,’ Rhodes said. ‘It’s never happened here. I’m new to Facebook and Twitter, but I posted some information and I’ve been getting some positive feedback. It seems there is a lot of interest.’