UTICA — They’re back and, once again, they’re loaded.
Fresh from winning the Northridge Invitational, the perennially powerful Utica Redskins wrestling squad is balanced with new talent in the lower weight classes, and led by seniors on a mission.
Sophomore Dylan Wear is one of the new Redskins, filling the 103-pound slot. Last winter, he played basketball. So far this season, he has taken second place once and third twice.
“Actually, he’s doing good for being a first-year kid. He’s pretty physical, so that helps him in there,” said Utica coach Mike Garven.
Andrew Gayheart (112), another sophomore, missed his freshman year but brings plenty of experience to the squad from his days in middle school.
“He’s a really solid kid,” said Garven. “He has taken second and a pair of thirds this year.”
Pete Hughes was a district qualifier last year and is a sophomore at 119 pounds. He won at Northridge last week and has a second-place finish as well. He will hang on to his spot as long as he can beat up-and-coming freshman David Torrens, who is waiting for a spot to open up.
“Pete had a good junior high career,” said Garven. “David can’t move to 119 because he can’t beat Pete, and he can’t move to 125 because Dylan Wheeler has that spot.”
Wheeler is a junior and a district qualifier from last year. He has a first- and third-place finish so far this season.
“In a lot of duel matches, we’ll bump Dylan and Pete up and let David wrestle at 119,” said Garven. “In a tournament like Northridge, I would rather get them to wrestle at their weight. If I put David up at 130, he might have a hard time. The weight difference might give him a hard time. He might win one or two matches, maybe. At least at 119, he can compete.”
Jacob Connolly also wrestles at 125 for the Redskins. He is a sophomore who also wrestled in the middle school program.
“We bump him up to 130 now and then,” said Garven. “That gives him a little bit of mat time. He has taken some beatings for that.”
Right now, the 130- and 135-pound weight classes are pretty much open for the Redskins. At 140, Gavin Shannon can’t drop any more weight classes.
“Gavin is a second-year sophomore,” said Garven, “He was hurt three quarters of the year last year, and only wrestled at the end of the season. He took a fourth and a third. He also took the B pool at the Granville tournament this year. He’s getting better this year. He hardly had any mat time last year. This year, he’s getting better on his feet.”
Kenny Poland, at 145, could move down to 140 if needed. Poland wants to improve on his junior year.
“He has really worked hard this year,” said Garven. “He does all of the little things that you need to do as a wrestler. He is helping the younger kids a lot more. He’s becoming more of a leader. He leads by example. He was a district qualifier in his freshman and sophomore years. Last year, he took it for granted and didn’t get out. I think he realized it this year, so he is giving everything you need to give.”
Seth Ware, now at 152, could wrestle at 145. Freshman Anthony Taylor waits in the wings.
“Seth won his first tournament last weekend in four years of high school,” said Garven. “This year, Seth has worked a lot harder than he has in the past. With Dylan, his little brother, on the team, that has encouraged him because nobody wants to be shown up by their little brother. Anthony wrestled as a seventh-grader and wasn’t very good. He came out this year and just gets better every weekend.”
Junior Derek Posey (160) is working extra hard this year.
“Last year, it was all fun and games,” said Garven, “but after they had a good football season, he realizes the harder you work, the more you’ll get out of it, and he has really worked hard.”
Junior Creston Gray at 171 pounds is wrestling up a weight class.
“He always places fourth,” said Garven, “so he will always give us some points. He was wrestling at 189 last year. He probably came into the season about 20 pounds lighter than last year.”
B.J. Douglas, who is wrestling at 215, is actually 189.
“The typical 215 wrestler is a football player,” said Garven. “The typical 189-pounder is a real wrestler. B.J. is an undersized 215, but he is so quick. We’ll leave him in this class until he meets the true 215s.”
Heavyweight Matt Dodsworth is a junior and will do well if he can keep his weight down.
“He was too big in the eighth grade to wrestle in middle school,” said Garven. “He sat behind Nick Smith in his freshman year. He won a big match in Johnstown.”