Eudora poised for run at state crown
There`s a long road ahead for the Cardinal wrestling team, but last Saturday it began the journey back toward the state tournament with a fourth-place finish in the first meet of the season.
"I thought it was a good start," said Coach Ron Abel of the finish in Effingham. "But I wouldn`t be completely honest if I didn`t say I thought we`d perform a little better than we did."
The Cardinals aren`t merely looking to do well in the Frontier League or in district 4A. They are making a run at being one of the top five teams in the state after finishing 10th last year. And with a group of core returners, including 11 letter winners, four of whom qualified individually for the state tournament last year, things are looking good for the Cards.
"Things look real positive," Abel said. "We`ve got quite a bit of returners from last season where we finished 10th in the state, so we`ve got quite a bit of depth."
There are about 30 wrestlers on the team this year, led by seniors Brian Harris, who won his 140-pound weight class and was named outstanding wrestler of the meet, Dustin Crowe and Brett Becker and junior Jason Lister, all of whom qualified for the state tournament last season.
Harris finished fourth in the 130 pound weight class; Brett Becker finished fifth in the 140 pound class; Dustin Crowe qualified in the 119 pound class and Jason Lister qualified in the 215 pound class.
But they know it won`t be easy to make their way back to the top.
"It`s going to be tough," Lister said. "It`s going to be harder than last year because the competition got stronger for this season."
And the Cards are going to have to improve on last weekend`s meet Thursday when they head to Santa Fe Trail and Saturday at a meet in Eudora. To make the leap from fourth place to the top, the team will have to focus on conditioning, being quicker and stronger than its opponents.
"Wrestling takes a lot of body endurance, plus there are a lot of a mental aspect to the sport so we`ll slowly work toward getting back in the swing of things," Abel said. "One of the real keys to wrestling is being good on your feet, so we`ll focus a lot on take downs and conditioning."
In a sport based on individual competition to gain team points, sticking together as a team is essential to success, Abel said.
"I always focus on team goals. It`s pretty obvious how important the team is," Abel said. "Being successful as a team is a very high priority for our returners."
Crowe, who will start this season in the 125 pound class while working to get back to 119 to wrap up the season, said finding a balance between the individual and team aspects were key.
"I think we come together pretty good as a team. We need to," Crowe said. "I think it`s really important, but it is also an individual sport so you have to be ready for yourself too."
Crowe said if the team did bond together again this season, it had a chance to go even further than last year.