SENECA — For the Seneca wrestling team, taking the next step up the ladder has seemed to become commonplace.
Two years ago the Fighting Irish set a team record for wins in a season, then at 14 and last year advanced four grapplers to state for the first time in school history. This year the locals have again eclipsed its previous record for wins in a season - the latest coming on Tuesday night at home after a 45-18 non-conference victory over Putnam County.
"It means a lot to me," Seneca senior Gary Wantroba said about the team recording its 16th win of the season and extending its single-season mark for victories. "We did it here a couple of years ago and now we're doing it more and more. It's nice to be a part of it."
On Tuesday, Wantroba got one of seven wins by the Irish in contested bouts. In fact, Seneca won seven of the eight matches wrestled on the day.
"At the beginning of the season, it was one of our team goals to break the record (for wins)," Wantroba said. "I'm glad we did it. I think everyone is glad we did it."
Seneca coach Todd Yegge said that part of the reason for the spike in wins this year is the fact that the Irish have loaded the schedule with duals this winter.
"We added the super dual to our schedule this year, so we got extra duals that way," he said. "We've already gotten in 29 duals and a lot of them came in the one tournament. I thought at the start of the season that the team could break the record. I'd like to see us get to 18-19 wins and if we do that, we would have broken it anyway."
Seneca is currently 16-13.
Tuesday's match started out with two double forfeits and at 120 Kyle Sigmon won by forfeit. Seneca then forfeited at 126 before Hank Thomas won by forfeit. The remaining forfeit came at 285 where Seneca gave up six more. In between, the Irish won all but the 170-pound class.
At 138, Sage Friese won 16-3; at 145 Wantroba won by fall in :51; at 152 Cole Klicker won 7-0; at 160 Tommy Lovett won 13-2; at 182 Dayton Coyle won 13-3; at 195 Brandon Webb won by fall in 2:58 and at 220 Scott Valentine won by fall in 3:13.
Friese, Lovett and Webb are returning state qualifiers from last year to anchor the team, but Wantroba said that night's like Tuesday's show the maturity of the whole team.
"I think we're going up and up. We're getting better," he said. "It's nice to have those three on the team, but everyone works as hard as they do in practice. We all put a lot of effort into it."
Yegge said that there is much to enjoy about his current team.
"The guys have done a good job this year. They have been fighting hard," he said. "We're hoping to keep improving through the regional and sectional time.
"Tonight is was nice to see Scott Valentine, a freshman, bump up a class and get his first official varsity victory. That's exciting for a freshman. And at 152 Cole Klicker won at hos spot. I like to see the kids building their confidence as they go this year. Dayton Cole also went up a weight and wrestled their best kid and won. That's good to see too because nobody works harder than Dayton."
Up next for Seneca is at Manteno before the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament gets underway this weekend at Reed-Custer.
"We've got a big one Thursday against Herscher. They have a good team," Wantroba said. "Then we're going to conference and we're hoping that everyone can place."