Wrestling team seeks success despite loss of seniors



Photo by Grant Harrison.

Last year’s graduation has been hard on this year’s wrestling team.

“We had five that started last year, we lost a lot of our heavyweights,” coach Jerry Schumacher said. “Of the five, they were [in the five heaviest] weight classes and so we ended up having to put all new kids in the upper weight classes.“

Despite the loss of last year’s senior talent and leadership, Bellevue West’s wrestling team is hunting for success–and possibly a state champion.

The team found some of this success on Jan. 11, when it finished first at the St. Albert dual meet–the first team victory of the season.

“I had four matches matches [and] four wins,” senior Jake Garner said. “We went 3-1 which isn’t bad. Overall we’ve done pretty well so far.”

Though West earned a victory at St. Albert, with five of last season’s seniors graduated, the team struggled to fill its ranks again.

“We had some open weight classes [at the meet] so we had to give up some points,” sophomore Ryan Smales said.

An open weight class occurs when a team does not have a wrestler able to compete in a certain weight class. If the opposing team has an eligible wrestler, they are awarded 6 points. Since West has two empty weight classes, West gives up potentially 12 points every match.

But open weight classes aren’t the only difficulties facing the team.

Injuries are a constant concern for the wrestlers. Some wear knee and ankle braces, supporting their cartilage and joints from the forceful grappling, while others yet are sidelined, sitting on chairs and rolled up mats during practice after receiving one too many blows or landing awkwardly on a sensitive joint.

“Rusty was out a little bit because of his ankle and Ryan Plambeck was out for the same reason. He hurt his ankle early in the season,” Smales said. “We’ve been not as well because of injuries, but I think we’ve [still] been wrestling pretty well.”

Despite this, with the season halfway through, no goal looms larger than taking that coveted state title.

The past two years West fielded two state champions: Chris Luhering and Preston Lauterbach. This year, senior Jake Garner believes he has a shot at the state title, a feat that would continue West’s state wrestling champion streak.

“I’ve wrestled so many guys in the top of my weight class [and] I can hang with them. I believe in myself and in my abilities,” Garner said. “I think I could beat anybody in my weight class.”

The wrestlers will grapple next at the district tournament on Feb. 15.

Grant Harrison
Commentary Editor