Trojans leaning on experienced core in 2013
■ Coach Miller welcomes back a solid senior class that includes three state-qualifiers.
A few bumps and bruises are expected to come the Fairfield wrestling team’s way this season, but it should only make the Trojans stronger.
Second-year head coach Steve Miller loves the fact his wrestlers face off against some of the best teams and individuals in the state. He believes a tough schedule will make his wrestlers more prepared come postseason time.
“We’re used to wrestling heavy competition. We see the top teams in the state on a regular basis at our tournaments,” said Miller. “If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and that’s what we train for.”
The rough schedule — which pits Fairfield against national powerhouse Davenport Assumption and many larger schools — seemed to pay dividends for several Trojans in Miller’s first season. Four Trojans, in particular, made the state tournament in Des Moines last winter, and three are back with a return trip in mind.
Seth Davisson headlines the list of returning state-qualifiers, and the senior is currently ranked fifth in the Class 2A preseason rankings at 170 pounds. Jake Mineart qualified for the state tournament at 220 pounds and enters his senior season ranked seventh individually, and 138-pounder Ammon Shaner also qualified as a junior after winning a pair of titles at sectionals and districts. All three will be good bets for deep runs into the postseason once again.
A fourth senior, 145-pound wrestler Aaron Gevock, hopes to jump into the state tournament conversation after falling short at sectionals last year.
Familiar faces dot the rest of the 20-person lineup, from Wyatt Bruce at 113 all the way up to Brett Scott at 182. Austin Francisco and Justin Leonard, both juniors, return at the middleweights, and sophomores Dalton McCarroll, Dakota Nye and Bryce Lunsford are back after earning varsity letters as freshmen.
“On a varsity lineup of 14, if you only lose a few seniors, you’re returning an experienced group. About everybody in here saw some varsity time at one time or another,” said Miller.
Most of the wrestlers are expected to fill in their same weights from last winter, as well.
“There were a few who wrestled a weight last year and by the end of the season realized they should’ve been a weight lower, so they’re very conscientious of that this season,” said Miller.
A couple incoming freshmen could also contribute immediately. Derrick Robinson gives the Trojans a much-needed wrestler at 106 pounds, and Luis Jimenez (138) and Mitchell Burnstedt (120) will have their chances in a lineup rife with opportunities.
“We haven’t had big numbers the past couple years, and that’s kind of a double-edged sword,” said Miller. “You don’t have the depth, but the kids you do have get a lot of one-on-one coaching, and they get a lot of experience.
Like last season, Miller has high expectations for his wrestlers, and several team goals have already been set. Winning the Southeast Conference is one, but Fort Madison and Washington will be tough outs again.
“It’s definitely not going to be easy. We don’t set unobtainable goals, so I believe we can win conference. There’s really no slouch team in our conference anymore,” Miller said.
The lofty goals don’t stop there, as the hope is to qualify eight Trojans to the district meet after sending six last season. From there, he’d like to send five wrestlers to the state meet.
“Anybody that we take out of districts will have a very, very good shot of placing at the state tournament. That’s our ultimate goal, is to make it to the postseason but also to place,” Miller said. “We don’t want to be just a qualifying team. We want to be a placing team.”
Miller also looks for his team to improve upon its 5-5 dual record from a season ago, and he thinks he has the manpower to do it. He’s already eyeing an 8-3 mark in 2012-13.
“Last year we started off 0-4. I told the guys we shouldn’t have lost some of those duals early on. In order to win conference and to beat those teams we shouldn’t have lost to last year, that’s a reasonable expectation for us,” the second-year coach said.
So far, so good for the Trojans, who won their first two duals of the season at the Davis County quadrangular Thursday. They’ll be at the annual tournament at West Delaware Saturday.