Now in his fifth year as head coach of the Morris wrestling team, Jon Lanning is realistic on what he thinks he can expect out of his team this winter.
“We are going to be a young team this year without a lot of experience at the varsity level, but we will be battle tested by regional time,” he said. “We do have two individuals that are going to be competing for an opportunity to wrestle in Champaign at the end of the year.”
One of those two individuals is two-time state placer Kenny Baldridge – now in his senior season.
“He will be a serious threat for a state title run this season in 2A,” Lanning said.
A year ago Baldridge went 39-3 while placing fourth in the 120-pound weight class. The year before he was sixth and went 36-8.
“Kenny has worked very hard in the offseason and is poised to make a run at a title as a senior after leaving his sophomore and junior years with state medals,” Lanning said.
Baldridge is projected to be a 132-pounder this season.
The other guy in the wrestling room that Lanning feels strong about is senior Trevor Allbert.
“Trevor is a returning sectional qualifier who went 24-13 last year and was a two-time frosh-soph state qualifier,” Lanning said.
Two others are expected to return to the starting lineup for Morris this season as Dalton Ness at 220 pounds and Andrew Fought at heavyweight.
“Dalton had some nice wins last season and Andrew has put on 30 pounds and hit the weights hard and will be a much bigger heavyweight, which should lead to many more wins,” Lanning said.
Others out for the team this winter include: sophomore Ian Bernard; junior Jarred Bernard; junior A.J. Vota; senior Cody Decker and freshmen Tony Menozi and Andrew Smith.
“We have to continue to work and learn every time we step on the mat,” Lanning said. “We are going to be aggressive and attack our opponents, as well as sticking to the basics this season.”
Lanning is assisted again this year by Keith Anderson and Matt Seidel.
After getting to state as a team seven years in a row and eight out of the last nine years, one might think the Indians would not be flying under anyone’s radar any more. However, despite returning 11 starters from a year ago, second year Indians’ coach Jeff Charlebois thinks that’s very likely to happen this winter – at least at the onset of the wrestling season.
“We assume that we’ll be ranked low, if at all and we look forward to reminding people that we’re still alive and kicking,” he said.
Junior Nate Gunn and sophomore Carson Oughton would seem to be primed for the longest run individually this year. Oughton finished in sixth place last year as a freshman.
“Nate will be working to get to state and contend for a medal,” Charlebois said. “Last season he lost to the first, second and third place finishers and his other two losses were to state qualifiers.”
Gunn was 26-5 a year ago.
K.J. Minor also will be back for his senior season, trying to make amends for a 19-8 showing last winter.
“K.J. is back on track after having a poor junior campaign where he failed to qualify for state after making it his sophomore year,” Charlebois said.
Minor is one of three seniors on the team this year with the others being Andrew Potts, Shane Mart and Erik Velazquez.
“Returning everyone from 160-285, plus having a place winner at 145/152, means that we will be leaning on our upper weights until the lower weights show much needed improvement,” Charlebois said.
Expected to fill out that lineup from 160 through 285, with last year’s records, are: junior Jeff Klank (32-15) at 160, junior Chris Hiscock (14-14) at 170, Gunn at 182, junior Josh Bouie (30-15) at 182, Velazquez (34-15) at 220 and sophomore David Newman (17-14) at 285.
Those with the inside track to fill the lower weights include: Minor at 113, Potts at 120, Mart at 132, sophomore Nate Vaught at 132 and Carson Oughton (42-11) at 145.
Coal City Coalers
You could possibly call them the big/little three. That’s juniors Cody Minnick and Corey Jurzak and senior Casey Brown. Last year all three placed in the Class 1A IHSA State meet.
“Minnick, Jurzak and Brown are the key guys,” Coal City coach Mark Masters said.
Minnick finished second last year to Anthony Luis of Harvard in the 106-pound division for the Coalers and he ended the year with a 47-1 record. In the 113-pound class, Jorzak also finished second last winter as he lost to Brandon Briggs of Poplar Grove and wound up 42-5. Brown also was runner up last winter. He finished second to Josh Alber of Dakota and went 45-4.
Other than that, the rest of the Coalers this winter could also be considered “little”.
“We have low numbers this year,” Masters said. “It’s because of a large graduating senior class and a small incoming freshman class. That and a few key guys did not come out. But the workouts have been getting better every day.”
One junior returns with experience and that’s Jake Frost (21-17) at 195. Three other sophomores also return to the lineup in Max Rowell (9-3) at 120, Jonah Englert (14-21) at 138 and Riley Kazlauric (15-9) at 182.
Masters thinks that Plano, Sandwich and Wilmington “are in the [Interstate Eight]Conference title hunt.”
Seneca Fighting Irish
For the first time in a long time, Seneca coach Todd Yegge has had a less than full wrestling room as he waited for the end of an extended football season.
“The numbers are definitely down this year,” Yegge said. “I have eight athletes out, but we’re supposed to gain eight or nine football players.”
Individually, junior Sage Friese will be looking to get back to the IHSA finals. Last year he went 42-3, losing in the 126 pound finals to J.J. Whaley of Stillman Valley. He is one of five of the top seven match winners that Yegge returns this winter.
“We do have some positive experience returning, but we also have a lot of gaps potentially in our lineup and we are lacking depth,” Yegge said.
Senior Tommy Lovett won 39 matches last year and was a state qualifier as a sophomore. He and Dayton Coyle, with 27 wins, fill in behind Friese. After that, those returning with their win totals from a year ago are: senior Lucas Altobella (20), sophomore Kyle Sigmon (19), sophomore Bryce Coyle (9) and senior Cole Klicker (8). Others who are coming back with experience include: junior Jake Goslin, junior Zach Russell and sophomore Wyatt Rodriguez. Jacob Gonzales is a newcomer who will get some time in the upper weights this winter.
“Those will be the athletes that we will lean on for leadership and commitment,” Yegge said. “They will be the ones who will make our team competitive in a very strong Interstate Eight Conference.”