By Rob Kiser
What the Piqua wrestling team lacks in quantity, they more than make up for with quality.
The Indians return one state qualifier and three district qualifiers on their 13-man squad.
Leading the way is two-time state qualifier Hunter Bryant (152 pounds).
Bryant finished 42-7 last year and won one match at state — but his goals are much higher this season — and with good reason.
“His goal is to be in the finals (at state),” Kaye said. “He lost tight matches to the guys that finished first and third last year. That shows he can compete at that level. He has put the work in. Nobody in the (wrestling) room works harder. he is a great leader and pushes the other wrestlers. He is committed to the team having success in duals.”
The returning district qualifiers include sophomore Sam Herndon (113, 27-14 last year), sophomore Tristan Hostetter (126, 18-20) and junior Andrew Bolin (138, 28-13).
Close to making to district last year were junior Nick Baker (120, 19-17) and senior Jake Hetzler (285, 28-13).
“Sam (Herndon), Tristan (Hostetter) and Andrew (Bolin) are ready to take it to the next level,” Kaye said. “Nick (Baker) and Jake (Hetzler) have been close and know what they have to do.”
Also gaining experience were juniors Jesse Ceyler (120) and Brennan Hicks (145).
New to the program are seniors Mario Macon (170) and Steven Harvey (182); junior Clayton Crowell (160) and freshman Jimmy Perry (126) and Daniel Powis (145).
“Jesse (Ceyler) and Brennan (Hicks) both wrestled last year,” Kaye said. “Both freshman have wrestled at the junior high level. If you haven’t wrestled before, it is a shock to your system. Those guys will learn that, starting Saturday at the JV Invitational. The goal for them is work hard hard and improve their conditioning so they can benefit from that at the end of the year.”
And with several wrestlers in the same weight class, Piqua will find itself in a similar position when it opens the season with a double-dual against Wayne, Eaton and Dixie on Thursday.
“We will be forfeiting about five weight classes,” Kaye said. “We don’t want to do that, but that is the position we are in. Our minimal goal is to be competitive in the matches we wrestle, but we were in the same situation last year and went 7-3.”
The Indians will again compete in a number of strong tournaments as well.
“The idea is to put them in some positions they aren’t comfortable with, like going to schools they have never heard of and wrestling guys they have never heard of. That way, it is easier for them to just focus on their wrestling.”
Kaye has high hopes for the GWOC tournament and beyond.
“We have a very solid core group of returning lettermen,” he said. “All of our wrestlers are motivated to get the most out of their experience. They are very similar in that they are far from where they need to be to contend for a GWOC North title.
“The difference is that this group still has a lot of practices and meets in front of them to work towards getting there. The experienced group knows what stopped them before. They must help and motivate the new team members to remain committed.”
And let quality shine over quantity.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call and he can be reached at (937) 451-3334.