Shoot­ing For More

Colonel takes aim at first re­gional duals berth; strong fresh­man class fill­ing KI’s light­weight ranks

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE [email protected]­dem.com

Stephen Decatur High’s wrestling team may not be touched this sea­son.

The loaded Sea­hawks fig­ure to go un­beaten against its Bay­side Con­fer­ence brethren, and, bar­ring in­jury, look to be a heavy fa­vorite to win their sec­ond Bay­side tour­na­ment ti­tle in three years.

That’s not to say the con­fer­ence’s north­ern half plans on qui­etly go­ing through the mo­tions this win­ter.

North Car­o­line’s Ryan Bauer, Eas­ton’s Max­imus Bent­ley, Kent Is­land’s Ha­dyn Blan­chard and Colonel Richard­son’s Jor­dan Gabriel should again make strong bids for state ti­tles come March. And North Car­o­line, Kent Is­land and Queen Anne’s County should again push for berths in the Class 2A East Re­gion Dual-Meet tour­na­ment.

Then there’s Colonel Richard­son.

In ad­di­tion to Gabriel vy­ing to im­prove on his fourth-place fin­ish at states last sea­son, Bryan Hall en­ters his sev­enth sea­son as head coach with a team that has the goods to chal­lenge for the school’s first trip to the 1A East DualMeet tour­na­ment.

“We should have qual­i­fied for it last year,” said Hall of a team that for­feited two wins be­cause of a pa­per work snafu that left Colonel’s record at 7-7, one spot shy of qual­i­fy­ing for the 1A East duals. “Last year we wanted to get in. And I’m fairly cer­tain that if we got in we would have won it.”

Op­ti­mism on the mats ap­pears higher than ever be­fore in Amer­i­can Cor­ner this sea­son. The Colonels won the an­nual sea­sonopen­ing Andy Perez Me­mo­rial Tour­na­ment for the first time two weeks ago, with Bran­don Draper (126 pounds) and Gabriel (195) go­ing un­beaten to win their re­spec­tive weight classes.

“I think it’s go­ing to give our kids a lot of con­fi­dence,” Hall said of the tour­ney win. “The big thing with the tour­na­ment was we had all 13 peo­ple in the lineup. I think ev­ery­body else was for­feit­ing four to six spots.”

The Colonels should fill ev­ery weight class, though they may not have a set lineup un­til af­ter the Christ­mas break. Over the past three sea­sons, Hall has watched

his pro­gram steadily im­prove, go­ing from three wins, to five, to last sea­son’s 7-7 slate.

Hall isn’t pre­dict­ing an upset of Decatur, or some of the con­fer­ence’s other peren­nial heavy­weights. But Jor­dan Gabriel and Bran­don Draper, to­gether with Zach Draper, Bran­don Jester, Sam­son Opher — who each went 7-2 at the Perez tour­na­ment — Ma­son Lam­bert, Troy Rose, Jorse­len Gabriel, Austin Spies and Ryan Stan­ton give Colonel a solid core, which could gain added strength as a group of promis­ing-look­ing fresh­men de­velop.

“We wres­tled re­ally well,” Hall said of his team’s per­for­mance at the Perez tour­na­ment. “I think our younger guys grew a lot. We had four fresh­men in the lineup and each one of them got bet­ter as the tour­na­ment went on. So we’re ex­cited.”

That ex­cite­ment could re­main in Colonel’s cor­ner through the reg­u­lar and post­sea­son.

Here’s a look at this sea­son’s lo­cal teams:

Kent Is­land Head Coach: Tommy Si­tar, 4th sea­son.

Who’s Where: 106: Collin Edds (Fr.); 113: Ja­cob Bow­man (Fr.); 120: Jack Mul­li­gan (Fr.); 126: Cameron Faulkner (Fr.); 132: Gar­rett Griebel (Fr.); 138: Matthew Miller (Jr.); 145: Dou­glas Al­varez (Jr.); 152: Peter Con­nor (Sr.); 160: Jared Silva (Sr.); 170: Randy Main (So.); 182: Joey Bunce (Sr.); 195: Max Tate (Sr.); 220: Ha­dyn Blan­chard (Jr.); 285: Grayson Colchagoff (Sr.).

Out­look: State-qual­i­fiers Dy­lan Fin­lay, Nick Leisen­ring and Jake Hipps are gone, but ap­par­ently so are the for­feits that plagued the Bucs, who sur­ren­dered as many as 18 to 24 points be­tween 106 and 126 last sea­son. That doesn’t ap­pear to be a prob­lem this early sea­son, with a strong look­ing fresh­man class fill­ing the light­weight ranks.

“They work hard; they keep the in­ten­sity up in prac­tice,” Si­tar said. “I’m sure they’ll keep their nose to the grind­stone and keep work­ing hard.”

Blan­chard (15-6) came back from an early sea­son in­jury to place fourth at states at 220 and hopes to go a few steps fur­ther this sea­son. Bunce (31-11) is also back with plans for a re­turn trip to states, while help­ing the Bucs qual­ify for the 2A East duals.

“We’re look­ing at qual­i­fy­ing for re­gional duals and those are kind of our goals,” said Si­tar, who’s is hop­ing trips to the South River Duals, the New Year’s Brawl at Eas­ton, and the al­ways chal­leng­ing War on the Shore at Decatur ready his team for the post­sea­son.

“It’s awe­some to go to a tour­na­ment that’s harder than your state tour­na­ment,” Si­tar said of War of the Shore.

Queen Anne’s Coach: David Stricker, 4th sea­son.

Who’s Where: 106: Lo­gan Unkart (Fr.); 113: Michael Corder (So.); 120: Pete Lem­mons (So.); 126: Aaron Pick­ett (So.); 132: Hunter Charles (Jr.); 138: Eric Smith (Jr.); 145: Isaac Mur­doch (Sr.); 152: Ja­cob West­fall (Jr.); 160: Chase Woodall (Fr.); 170: Ian Wein­gaert­ner (So.); 22: Sean Black­well (So.); 285: An­gelo Moore (Sr.).

Out­look: With re­gion cham­pi­ons Lem­mons (36-4) and Smith (30-6) back, along with fel­low state qual­i­fiers Moore (25-9) and Charles (in 2017), Stricker thought the Li­ons had a chance to im­prove on last sea­son’s 12-4 slate, which ended in the fi­nals of the 2A East duals. But po­ten­tial for­feits could spoil those plans.

“I was re­ally look­ing to kind of take the next step since we’ve got a lot of kids re­turn­ing,” Stricker said. “But with­out fill­ing the full lineup we’re kind of in the same boat we were last year. I think we’ll beat the teams we’re sup­posed to beat, but we hit like a Park­side and Car­o­line, solid, full line­ups, and it’s go­ing to be pretty tough for us.”

Queen Anne’s learned that with last Wed­nes­day’s sea­son-open­ing loss to North Car­o­line, which Stricker hoped proved some­thing else to his team.

“We’ve been preach­ing prac­tic­ing right,” Stricker said. “Be­ing a good prac­tice part­ner and drilling the cor­rect way and I think (the Car­o­line match) kind of helped turn on the light bulb for some of our new guys be­cause we’re so young. We’ve got to drill hard and do it right in prac­tice so that way it shows up in the match. You can’t just try and flip the switch in a match.”

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at

[email protected]­dem.com

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Kent Is­land’s Joey Bunce, back, is seek­ing a re­turn to states.

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