The Rolla wrestling team is gearing up for their first match of the season and finished their wrestle-offs for varsity spots on Friday, Nov. 17.
The Bulldogs needed quite a few matches to figure out their starting lineup, as they have record numbers this season. Rolla has roughly 100 wrestlers in their brand new wrestling room, which has led to a lot of excellent competition.
"When you've got 100 kids in the room, it brings competition to the forefront," said head coach Marty Hauck. "Kids at this age love it, they get excited about it and that's what we've got going on right now. We had several matches and several 'upsets' that have been going on in the room and then tonight they 'upset' them tonight. We had several close matches as well."
Things got off to an interesting start on Friday night with the Sederburg brothers, Xander and Anthony, wrestling for the 106 spot. They couldn't both start at 106 and Anthony, a junior, won the honor, while his freshman brother Xander will wrestle at 113.
"Xander and Anthony, the two Sederburg boys solid wrestlers, come out and it goes into overtime to a takedown," said coach Hauck. "That kind of started the night with the 106 pound class and it was a great night of wrestling starting off with them. It was fun to see them."
Crawling up the weight classes, Nate Pullium took the starting spot at 120. Pullium may be a freshman, but he has a ton of experience with wrestling in kids club. Coach Hauck has liked what he's seen from his young 120.
"He's been a State medalist in the youth club coming all the way up through. This summer he beat some highly competitive kids, he's a great offseason," said the Rolla head coach. "A very strong kid, a disciplined kid, played soccer, multi-sport athlete. Can't say enough good about him. I'm looking for great things from him. He definitely pushes Zach Fennell and Coleman (Brainard) and those guys already in the room and you've gotta have that."
Pushing Fennell and Brainard in the wrestling room is no simple task. Both are returning State medalists and Brainard has medaled at State in each of his first three high school seasons. While Fennell is a returning medalist, he has some great competition at 126 in Collin Woods. Woods wrestled at 106 and 113 this year, but has made the jump up to 126. Fennell edged Woods in the wrestle-off, but the two sophomores should push each other in the room all year long.
Fennell is also making a jump on his own, as he wrestled at 120 last season. The sophomore has some big shoes to fill, as Tristan Barr finished his senior year at 126 last year with just two losses, one of which came in the State Championship. While Barr set high expectations at 126, Fennell isn't afraid to step into that spot.
"The kids are competitive and he wants to beat all of Tristan's records," said Hauck of his sophomore 126. "When you talk to Zach about it, he says 'well I'm going to beat everything he did.' I like to see that."
At 132 is Rolla's first Wrestler of the Week in Justin McEnany. The sophomore had two pins on the night to earn the starting spot and got some revenge on Datham Mickem in the process. The two fought for the 132 spot all season last year and that will continue to be a great battle.
"McEnany obviously had a great night. Mickem had beaten him earlier this week and he turns around and he catches him and pins him tonight. Hats off to him," said coach Hauck. "Mickem has already talked to me tonight and he said he wants him again, he wanted him later tonight. I said not tonight, but that's exciting."
McEnany also had the special honor of receiving the brand new Wrestler of the Week belt from Bob Stoltz, the founder of the Rolla wrestling program and their first head coach. Coach Hauck was thrilled to have the former coach there to witness what the program has grown to.
"It was great, I'm very happy. Everything that he's done, I've read a lot about him and I got to meet him today," said coach Hauck. "We went through the new room and he was just mind blown with what we've got given to us and the gift that we have and the ability to touch kids the way that we do. He's a very inspiring man and, of course, both of us started a program, so we had a lot of similarities and a lot of funny stories about the problems that happened when we were getting them going."
Brainard will continue to lock things down at 138 for the Bulldogs as he looks to cap off his career with a fourth State medal. Right above him will be Lucas Lambeth at 145. Those two seniors have been great leaders in the room and faced off against each other at the wrestle-offs to give the fans an interesting matchup.
"You go to the heart of our order with Coleman Brainard and Lucas Lambeth, they're right there. They wrestled hard and had a good match," said the Rolla head coach. "I put them up together against each other for the crowd because it's a better matchup.
"They've been dominating the room in their weight classes and it's time for some of those younger kids to learn," continued coach Hauck. "And we pair them up and let them get beat on by those guys a little bit, but it doesn't help them and it doesn't help the younger guys trying to learn the sport."
Another freshman is stepping in at 152 in David Redding. Hauck knew he wanted Redding to take part in the sport and the freshman proved why when he earned the starting spot on Friday night.
"He's a kid that I picked up in the hallway and said 'hey, you're gonna wrestle' and he kind of looked at me like I was crazy and now here he is, he's on a varsity spot," said coach Hauck. "He's just a good kid and he works hard. He's going to learn the game and throwing him into the varsity spot, he's going to take a couple of licks probably, but that's okay, it'll make him that much better in a couple of years. I'm excited to see where he's at."
Bryce O'Connor will return at 160, while Ian Dobkins will replace Seth Veatch at 170. Dobkins had to beat out senior Jacob Phillips, before Phillips turned around and earned the starting spot at 182. While Phillips has a starting spot, he wants that 170 spot back from Phillips.
"With Ian Dobkins, Phillips has been beating him all week and then Ian comes out and the lights turn on and he comes ready to go," said coach Hauck. "That's what I love that about that kid, he fights hard and he beat Phillips. Phillips is scratching his head and hey it's time to go to the next weight class up and challenge that kid and he does and he wins that and now he's gonna be the 82 guy, but he wants that 70 spot. I guarantee when we get back into the room, that's the first thing he's going to ask me and that's what I love about it."
195 and 220 will both feature returning wrestlers as Colton Franks jumped up a weight class from 182, while Jacob Dobkins kept his spot at 220. Rounding things out will be Justin Briggs, who saw some varsity time last year.
"And of course Briggs is back and the bigger Dobkins, Jacob Dobkins, and Franks," said Hauck. "Those are going to be our steady horses up top."
The Bulldogs had three State medalists graduate after last season, but that doesn't mean coach Hauck is planning on expecting any less from his team.
"We expect more. We keep raising the bar. We're not going down, we're going up," said coach Hauck. "We're building. We're building momentum, we're building numbers, we're building the team."
The Rolla head coach thinks he's got quite a few kids that have a chance to make a splash at State at the end of the season, but he doesn't want any of his players thinking that it'll be handed to them.
"We've definitely got kids there, but I don't necessarily wanna toot that horn yet, I want them to prove it," said coach Hauck. "But yes, definitely. I tell the kids all the time that I'll bet a paycheck that we're in State and I'll be sitting there at the end of February, that Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I'll be sitting in one of those chair and I want them to be a part of it."
Rolla will have a tough schedule again this year, which includes the Neosho Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2 and the Fort Zumwalt East Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16 before heading into 2018. After the New Year, some big tournaments include the Republic Tournament, Platt County and the Ozark Conference Tournament. Before getting into any of those, Rolla will kick off the season with a dual against Union on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Kids will get out of class at 2:00 to come down and watch the Bulldogs open their season.
"They're in our class and we're going to see them at State and it's an important dual for us matchup-wise. But the biggest thing I want to take away is to just have fun," said coach Hauck. "I want to get the crowd involved, I wanna get the kids in the high school involved and get them behind us and let our kids see that they high school is behind us. We're very fortunate that we get the privilege to do this, the administration has been phenomenal.
"There's no bigger advertisement than getting the lights out and putting the spotlight on the kids and letting them showcase their talents," continued the Rolla head coach. "It's so much fun to see that and I just appreciate everything the administration has done for our program."
Coach Hauck is especially happy to have this match right before Thanksgiving.
"Especially right before Thanksgiving break, it's a great time to be thankful," said the Rolla head coach. "It's a great time to be thankful for the new room, thankful for the administration and what they've done, thankful for the kids coming out and just giving me the effort that they have, and thankful to the parents for sharing their kids with me."