MONFORT HEIGHTS – Last season, La Salle High School finished 28th overall in the state wrestling tournament. The Lancers had four state qualifiers (two of those placed) last season and all four return this year.
“We’re very excited,” said seventh-year La Salle coach Avery Zerkle. “It’s been a little different with football still going, but we’re excited to get everybody together.”
Sophomores Corey Shie and Andrew Sams both placed at state last season. Shie was fifth at 120 pounds; Sams was eighth at 126.
Zerkle said Shie’s a full-time wrestler and competed in roughly 50 matches, at a national level, this summer.
Sophomore Eric Beck is another returning state qualifier, along with senior John Shirkey, who’s looking to return from injury sometime after Christmas.
La Salle also gets back junior Jared Thiemann, sophomore Hunter Perdue and junior Deshon Coptman.
Zerkle said that sophomore Coltyn Keairns, who missed all of last season due to injury, has a lot of potential at 285. Also look out for freshman Blake Wilson, who placed third at the junior high state meet last season and already has a tournament win this season.
La Salle will be at the Coaches Classic tournament Dec. 20-21 at Harrison.
After watching teammate, Tegray Scales, finish runner-up in the state last season, Colerain’s motivated to get back to that level. The Cardinals have eight returning starters led by district qualifiers senior Josh Daniels, junior Chris Albert and sophomore Kenny Byers.
Seniors Brian Kenelly and Blake Wenedelken are both back and will help provide some leadership to a young team.
“We are young (18 freshmen) and have some experienced upperclassmen who are willing to take on that leadership role and help develop the young guys,” said Colerain coach Chris Hotopp.
The other returning starters are John Carraher, Roger Staigl and Josh Brankamp.
“This year, I think we will be a much more balanced team and can compete more with teams in duals,” Hotopp said.
Northwestwrestling coach Nicholas Maffey said he is really excited for this season as the Knights return six wrestlers that have three or more years of experience in the program.
Northwest has posted back-to-back winning seasons with a record of 22-8.
“This is the year I will see the fruition of my labor,” Maffey said.
In addition to the six wrestlers with three or more years of experience in the program, Northwest returns its entire starting lineup from last season. The Knights feature seniors Julian Daniels and Josh Leist; juniors Keyon Huntley and Tyler King; and freshman Derrick Leist.
Daniels is a three-time district qualifier with more than 80 career wins, currently has seven school records and will look to break a few more in his final season. Josh placed fourth in the league last season.
Huntley is a returning district qualifier and King was a district alternate. Derrick was a top 12 placer at state in junior high.
Similar to Northwest, Mt. Healthy has five starters returning from last year’s roster. Three of the seniors have been with the program since the seventh grade and are trying to finish out their careers on a strong note.
The Owls return a district qualifier in senior Danny Johnson along with fellow seniors Ke’Eryon Deal, Brian Pringle and Leon Currie-Davis. Junior Tobias Froehlich also returns for Mt. Healthy.
“We have wrestlers who are hungry and desire to grow in the sport, which makes practice intense and enjoyable as a coach,” head coach Joe Dixon said.
Now in his third season at Roger Bacon, coach Chris Harrison continues to fight to overcome low numbers within the program.
“Last year we only had seven guys, this year we have nine,” Harrison said.
Four guys return this season with some experience for the Spartans. Junior Brian Stentz is a returning sectional qualifier at 138 pounds. Seniors Mike Frederick and Kevin Dinh are both back to provide some experience and leadership. Sophomore Zac Baur is a returning starter who will wrestle at 160 pounds and can also make 152 as needed.
“We keep building and keep getting bigger,” Harrison said. “Constant improvement is what we’re looking for. Trying to drill in their heads that wrestling is a commitment.”
Harrison said the goal right now is consistency and “trying to get them in the room every single day.”
The focus at St. Xavier is on the short term.
“If we focus on the short-term goals, in the long run they’ll work themselves out,” said St. X coach Tom Wynn. “What we talk about is just winning the battles we can, one period at a time.”
The Bombers are coming off a more than memorable season. They finished 12th overall in the state and Joe Heyob, who graduated, was a state champion at 170 pounds.
Seniors Cole Jones and Ben Heyob are both returning state qualifiers. Jones placed fourth at 195, but he’ll likely wrestle at 220 this season. It was Ben’s second time qualifying for state, and he’ll be at 145 this year.
Junior Nick Falke also returns, a district qualifier last season. Sophomore Conner Yauss was a sectional qualifier last year. Sophomore Sam Kreiter’s a transfer (from La Salle) and he won’t be eligible until later this season, but Wynn said he will help out.
“I like the fact that the guys are gritty, they just work hard,” Wynn said.