Longtime Hillsboro wrestling coach Scott O’Hare has plenty of reason for a positive outlook for his team heading into the ’21-’22 season.
A trio of wrestlers with state tournament experience along with a trio of letter-winners return.
That should come in handy as the Trojans face a typically brutal schedule with weekend tournaments and likely opponents from the state’s premier programs in Class 3-2-1A.
Hillsboro will be without one of the most successful wrestlers O’Hare has had with the graduation of Jordan Bachman.
But that’s nothing O’Hare hasn’t faced before. He regularly fields fundamentally solid wrestlers who vie for tickets to the meat grinder that’s the state tournament in Hays the final weekend in February.
This year shouldn’t be any different with his team led by the senior duo of Tristan Rathbone and Garrett Helmer, two wrestlers with a combined five appearances at Hays.
“We have a nice corps of returning letter-winners and state qualifiers,” O’Hare said. “It’s a great group of hard-working guys with good attitudes.
“We have a nice roster of 19 wrestlers starting the season. With some commitment, we feel good about filling 13 of the 14 weight classes, many with experienced wrestlers. This will help us be very competitive in duals and tournaments.”
Expect last year’s shortcomings at Hays to fuel three-time state qualifier Rathbone in the vicious 152-pound class this year.
Rathbone was eliminated in his first match by Uniontown’s eventual state champion, Bryce Eck, then tumbled in the second to powerhouse Norton’s fifth-place finisher, Garrett Urban.
Three-fourths of Rathbone’s 2021 bracket were underclassmen, but Eck is the state’s top 160-pounder, with Hill City’s sophomore Aiden Amrein, hot on his tail after taking third as a freshman.
Rathbone will open the season at third, with the fourth wrestler from a year ago, Rossville’s Sam Twombly, at two behind top-ranked Hoxie junior Drew Bretz.
Helmer just missed a trip to Hays a year ago, falling short at regionals after going 1-2 as a sophomore in the 132-pound class along with qualifying as a freshman.
Missing out a year ago may be enough to spark Helmer in his last go-round.
Canton-Galva’s Ryder Norstrom last qualified for state as a freshman in 2019-20, where he also went 1-2.
Norstrom should improve on his sophomore finish for a strong junior season.
Joining Norstrom in rounding out the junior class are Lane Rogers and Deon Weeks, with Anthony Fickes a sophomore.
Angus Duell didn’t wrestle his freshman year. Emery Dalke, Justin Miller, and Logan Rogers are O’Hare’s freshmen corps.
Weight management, physical and mental toughness, and health are yearly worries for O’Hare, and if the Trojans are able to do well in those areas, things should go smoothly.
“You can never improve enough from a standpoint on technique in this sport,” O’Hare said. “We will continually add new things and help each individual develop their own style of wrestling.”
That’s paid dividends for O’Hare.