Dreams of state hardware to drive Cardinal veterans
Eudora wrestling coach Bill DeWitt isn't shy about how this year's team stacks up against his teams of previous years.
"I've been here six years," he said, "and I think this is the best team I've had."
Coming off a year in which the Cardinals grapplers compiled a 15-4 dual record, finished second in the Emporia, Bonner Springs and Eudora tournaments and placed five wrestlers in the state tournament, DeWitt's statement is high praise for this year's squad.
One goal this season will be to make up for failing to medal at the state tournament for the second consecutive season. DeWitt has seen more time and work put in during the off-season than in years past.
"Travis Clarke, Evan Meyers, those two in particular -- there are other seniors, but those two in particular -- put in a lot of time on the mat, wrestling over the summer," DeWitt said. "I'm excited."
Both seniors, Clarke and Meyers coupled with fellow senior and returning state qualifier Jake Love should emerge as leaders of the team.
Clarke went 38-10 at 130 pounds a year ago. Meyers wrestled at 189 pounds and ended up 34-9. 160-pounder Jake Love went 37-13.
DeWitt said the wrestling program made the decision to open up the wrestling room at the high school a couple of times a week to try and get kids in over the summer.
"The numbers are up and the kids are excited," DeWitt said.
DeWitt accepted some blame for the medal-less end to the season, saying he's trying harder this season to take it upon himself to get his wrestlers performing their best at the end of the season.
"We always peak really nice before Christmas and then we peak a little bit too early." DeWitt said. "I've really got to get my kids to peak at the right time. I think we will. We'll be matured."
As for what weight Clarke, Meyers and Love would be at, it's hard to say. He expects Clarke to be at the 140 slot, but with the nature of wrestling and cutting weight, it really depends on who fills the other slots so the team is sound from top to bottom.
DeWitt also mentioned seniors Chase Rust, Gage Ham and Eric Allen.
"I have some kids who've toiled on JV behind other kids for three years," DeWitt said. "Now as seniors they'll get a chance to step in and make an impact and I think that's part of what's going to be exciting. Seeing new faces and guys that are ready to show that they can work hard," DeWitt said.
He compares his teams' futility at state to his alma mater's (Kansas University) own failures in the NCAA basketball tournament.
"There are so many factors. We'll bounce back," he said. "We're gonna have a really good season."
He has what he calls an "outstanding group of seniors that put in a lot of time in the off-season." And when a team has good seniors, it can lead to younger kids overachieving.
"Travis and Evan and Jake, probably Chase, all seniors, they'll probably be the hammers, the guys that you can count on to be in every single match they wrestle, especially Travis," he said.
The Cardinals wrestling team will open its season at 5 p.m. Nov. 27, with a tournament at Santa Fe Trail.