Wrestlers blazing Trail
Cardinals take on Santa Fe in inaugural meet
The Eudora High School wrestling season begins Monday with a baptism by fire.
The Cardinals will take on third-ranked Santa Fe Trail at Eudora, and Coach Bill DeWitt wouldn't have it any other way.
"You can tell a lot about your team when you play against the best," he said.
The Cardinals are coming off a lackluster season a year ago, as they finished 8-14 overall with a 1-9 league record.
DeWitt cited the lack of experience and a tough schedule that sometimes did in his squad.
"We were young last year, and I knew it," he said. "My kids played hard -- they always play hard. But there was very little experience and when the schedule that we had was so brutal, that can hurt."
This year, DeWitt seems to have the experience he needs. Four seniors return to the squad, including Josh Barr, who placed sixth at state last year. Barr, along with fellow seniors Chris Durkin, Andy Coffman and William Bock, will be the nucleus of a squad of which the coach has high expectations.
"They're the leaders of this squad, and I have no doubt that they will be ready to accept that," DeWitt said. "They worked hard over the summer and will compete very hard this year. Josh Barr has the goal of being a state champion."
The Cardinals also have some strength in the junior ranks. Miles Cleveland comes off a sophomore campaign in which he compiled a strong 28-10 record.
The coach said his young wrestlers would benefit from the experience gained last year.
"There is a big leap in development from the freshman to sophomore years."
Sophomore Matt McPeek is an example of the coaches expectations. McPeek compiled a solid record of 13-13 in 2004 and looks to improve on that mark this year.
Despite all of the experience, the third-year coach does have some concerns.
"There will be some weight classes that we can't fill," he said. "When that happens, you forfeit points."
The Cardinals will be unable to fill the 103- and 275-pound weight classes this year. Senior Chris Durkin is the biggest wrestler on the squad at 215 pounds.
Aside from the performance aspect of DeWitt's expectations there are more intangible goals as well.
"In years past we've always had good individuals but never a great team," he said. "Team growth will be very important."
Besides the opener against Santa Fe Trail, the Cardinals will be tested this season as future meets include Paola, Gardner, Ottawa and archrival Baldwin.
One thing will be clear however: the hard-work philosophy that DeWitt will instill in his team.
"We may run into teams this year who are stronger or faster, but we will always work hard. No one will out-work us," DeWitt said. "There is a difference between being beaten and losing. We will not be losing this season if I have anything to do with it."