- Special Sections
- Public Notices
BUCKNER – After dominating the region with a one-two-three finish last year, local high school wrestling teams are primed to do just that again.
South Oldham, Oldham County and North Oldham all return top-flight wrestlers that include state champion contenders.
SOHS won the region last year and returns senior Ryan Houchens who took second in the state at 189-pounds and is the favorite to take the title this year. At OCHS, Ichiro Chiba returns to lead a deep Colonels team after taking third at 215-pounds last season. NOHS enjoyed its best-season ever last year and returns several solid wrestlers including Jeff and Dan Thompson and Davis Dudley.
Even without Chiba and regulars Jacob Miles and heavyweight Andrew Avery who are just coming out after finishing the football season, the Colonels have drawn first blood this season in two different meets.
They opened the year with a 53-29 dual win over Bullitt Central. OCHS followed that by winning four of five matches at the Bryan Station duals, beating Covington Holmes, McCreary Central, Franklin County and North Hardin. The Colonels’ only loss came 44-30 to perennial powerhouse Campbell County.
OCHS made a late run last year to take second in the region and returns 10 of the 11 wrestlers it sent to state.
“We have put ourselves in a position to be in the mix to win the region,” OCHS coach Aaron Riordan said.
The Colonels have been led so far by a pair of seniors in 171-pound Taylor Menard and Jeremy Bollman at 140.
Bollman took a medal at state last year winning eighth place.
Freshman Tyler Kaelin has also had an impressive debut at 112-pounds with a 6-0 start in his first varsity season.
The Colonels also return Daniel Breneman, Aaron Watts, Brian Hall and Mike Toth.
“We are expecting to have a good year,” Riordan said. “We have an awesome group of seniors. If we can stay healthy and they come into practice every day with the attitude of getting better, we will be a very good team.”
The Mustangs have steadily climbed in the regional hierarchy and took third in the region last year.
“We’ve got some pretty stout guys back this year,” NOHS coach Robert Fulk said. “We have a lot of holes to fill, but we’ve got some guys back who should do some great things. I’m sure we all think we can win the region, but I really think we have the horses to do it this year.”
Both Jeff Thompson at 160 and Dan Thompson at 140 reached the state last season as did eight other Mustangs.
Six of those state tourney competitors return including Dudley, Kyle Forbes at 171 pounds and heavyweight Greg Billows.
Senior Spencer Gooch, who will battle with Billows for the heavyweight spot, went at 215 pounds.
Senior Sandy Strapp will likely take the spot at 215 this season.
Also back are Chase Rusch at 119 and Zach Richardson at 125 pounds.
Fulk said the biggest hurdle the Mustangs may face in their drive to a regional title is simply believing they can do it against more traditional powers like SOHS, OCHS and Eastern.
“This is a great bunch of hard-working kids,” Fulk said. “The biggest issue we may have is getting the guys to realize they could be very good and be the best team in the region.”
The Dragons have been the bully on the block for a long time, winning seven regional titles in the past decade.
With the return of Houchens, the odds-on favorite for the 189-pound state title after he went 44-3 last year and finished second to North Hardin’s Mark Jones, SOHS expects to win again.
“I can’t see any reason why he won’t be the best in the state,” SOHS coach Steve Fiser said.
SOHS’ numbers are down some this year, but not the talent level, Fiser said.
“It’s a little bit different in terms of depth, but we have nine kids who are just as tough as nails,” Fiser said. “We might not be a very good duals team, but we could end up finishing in the top five or six in the state because we will have a very good tournament team. For us it’s a matter of health and just keeping the guys out there on the mat.”
To that end, the Dragons have made a switch in philosophy and placed a lot more emphasis on weight training while maintaining their normal practice schedule.
“It’s been a complete shift in terms of the way we coach and how much more we are working in the weight room,” Fiser said. “It has really paid off for a lot of the kids, you can just see how much stronger they are and we think that will keep them from getting hurt.”
In addition to Houchens the Dragons return Steve Vaughn at 135 along with Roy Bisenius at 112 or 119. Also back is Brandon Whitehouse who went at 119 and 125 last season.
Corey Edens will also return after Christmas. A state competitor last season, he had surgery during the preseason and is still recovering.
Spencer Warren returns at 160 and Cole Proctor will likely return at 152 along with Kyle Knight at 171.
Heavyweight Forrest Williams spent the off-season working in the weight room with Houchens and could be the team’s most improved wrestler, Fiser said.
“We’re pretty optimistic, if we stay healthy we could have a really good season,” Fiser said. “We feel like by the end of the season we can have some guys who can place at the state meet.”
E-mail us about this story at: firstname.lastname@example.org.