Young, but tal­ented Mat Ram­blers fo­cus­ing on Fe­bru­ary

The Catoosa County News - - SPORTS - By Scott Herpst [email protected]

The last few sea­sons have seen the Lafayette Ram­blers take steps to­ward re­build­ing their wrestling pro­gram back to­ward be­ing the pow­er­house that it once was.

And although this year’s squad will still be a rel­a­tively young one with only three se­niors and a ma­jor­ity of un­der­class­men, the Ram­blers are al­ready prov­ing their tough­ness this sea­son.

Lafayette has be­gun the 2018-2019 cam­paign by win­ning nine of its first 11 dual matches, with the lone two losses com­ing by nar­row mar­gins to Class 6A Dal­ton (42-30) and long­time Ten­nessee stal­wart Soddy-daisy (38-30).

New head coach Andy Stivers, who prepped at Chat­tooga and wres­tled at both Cum­ber­land (Tenn.) Univer­sity and Shorter, said he likes what he’s seen from his new school and his new team thus far.

“There’s a great at­mos­phere (at Lafayette),” ex­plained Stivers, who spent 16 sea­sons coach­ing at Chat­tooga. “You’ve got a lot of sports pro­grams here that are suc­cess­ful. The kids are hard-work­ing, ded­i­cated and have com­mon goals in mind that they plan to reach this year.

“We’ve started out pretty well. The kids are bust­ing their tails get­ting af­ter it. They’re show­ing a lot of heart we’ve had some suc­cess early, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We’re more wor­ried about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in Fe­bru­ary be­cause that’s the most im­por­tant part of the sea­son.”

As for this year’s se­nior class, J.J. Muder and Jake Price will both wres­tle around 138 or pos­si­bly 145 pounds, while Zach Price could go at 145 or 152.

“All three are good ex­am­ples,” Stivers said. “They’re vo­cal and they work hard in the prac­tice room to in­spire other kids to work harder. They re­ally lead by ex­am­ple.”

Cyrek and Kee­gan Johns, a pair of broth­ers, are bat­tling for the spot at 106. Hec­tor Velez, a sec­tional qual­i­fier a year ago, will wres­tle at 113, while two first-year wrestlers - Har­ri­son Watkins and Jazzen Nel­son - are vy­ing for the spot at 120.

Avery Sul­li­van is a re­turn­ing wrestler for the Ram­blers. He will wres­tle at 126 this year, while Steven San­ford should also see some mat time at that weight. Car­son Lanier will go

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