Neah-Kah-Nie coach Greg Kelly has 20 wrestlers out for his team. He wants more.
By Brad Mosher
According to Kelly, the key to doing well at the district meets is having a large number of wrestlers hitting the mat.
He already has nearly a dozen freshmen out for the team and one girl.
But the big horses that will be pulling his league, district and state hopes are a pair of grapplers who placed third in the state last season, along with a state qualifier and one wrestler who finished his season as an alternate to move on from the district championships.
Sophomore Tristan Bennett and senior Anthony Ramirez picked up the bronze at state last spring.
Senior Omar Arenas also qualified for state in the 132 pound weight class.
Sophomore Travis Jonsson was second at the district, making him an alternate to the winner in the heavyweight class.
“We have four seniors, one junior, three sophomores and, right now, 11 freshmen,” Kelly said. “We have good numbers for us. They are up from last year, but we are still wanting more kids to come out. The more we get, the more chance we have to compete for the district title.”
According to the coach, the team is led by his key group of returnees.
“It is pretty awesome to have two guys back (Bennett and Ramirez) in the room to lead the team with that experience.
“Arena is coming back from the state tournament as well and we are expecting big things,” the coach said Monday. “We are looking for him to step up and improve.”
Among the sophomores on the team, Bennett is not the only one Kelly sees as playing a big role. “Josh Longfellow will be a middleweight and Travis – two guys who placed well for us in the districts last year are coming back.
“We have another senior, Dylan Dunlap, an upper middleweight type guy, we are looking for big things out of him. We are expecting a great year out of him,” Kelley said.
“We have a lot of freshmen out here and that is awesome. The future looks bright.
“There is a lot of young talent there that as they progress in their careers, they are going to have really good careers here,” the coach said.
The team will open its season Dec. 2 when they travel to Tillamook for the Tillamook Country Smoker Invitational.
The team’s only home contest will be Feb. 1 when they host the All-League competition.
The next closest will be a Jan. 20 trip to Cloverdale to face Nestucca.