Manchester wrestling team led by strong junior, sophomore classes
NEW FRANKLIN — First-year Manchester High School wrestling coach JR Easterling said he is excited to see his team in action.
“The talent we have and the effort I am seeing in conditioning, open mats and drilling gives me a sense of confidence in the potential of this group,” he said. “This year, we will be a combination of young wrestlers and our experienced wrestlers from last year’s team. So far, I have been happy with how hard all of the wrestlers have practiced and the intensity I see in the room. This, hopefully, will translate into aggressive wrestlers during the season.”
Overall, Easterling said, the Panthers are “definitely a young team.”
“There were seven seniors from last season who contributed in ways to the lineup,” he stated. “We will be young when we start the season, so I need our young wrestlers to attack each match and not be afraid of early mistakes. Only then will we see if we can achieve our overall goals as a team.”
Last season, Manchester compiled a 9-3 record. The team finished fourth in the Principals Athletic Conference and repeated as the sectional champions.
“Our goal is to improve from the fourth-place league finish last season, win our third straight sectional title and get as many down to Columbus as we can,” the coach said. “Improvement will be in individual accomplishments. I will be taking over a program that has been through three coaches in four seasons. We have a few wrestlers who are a step or two away from being considered the top in Division III. As a team, I look for improvement in each match.”
The leadership on this year’s squad, Easterling noted, is “not so much by grade level, but experience.”
“We have found leadership in our sophomores and juniors on the team,” he stated.
Easterling said three juniors are expected to stand out this season.
“Bobby Bowen (113 to 120 pounds) was a match away from placing at state during his 37-10 campaign a year ago. He has already shown a work ethic of accepting nothing short of his goal to get back to the state tournament and place,” the coach said. “Jake Hanzel (285 pounds) had a solid 27-12 year last season. He just came up short from making it to state and now is determined to achieve a higher standard in the state. And I feel Kodi Berry (220) has the potential to win many key matches for us and at the season’s end could be among our top upper-weights.”
Another key wrestler for the team this season will be sophomore Drew Brasiel (138 to 145 pounds).
“Drew went 26-20 as a freshman,” the coach stated. “While he qualified for districts last season, that does not truly show his potential. I can tell that he wrestles with both technique and a level of physicality that will give him an edge in any match.”
Easterling said the team also has four freshmen who “potentially could garner some attention” in Joey Bowen (106 pounds), Brayden Kirk (113 to 120 pounds), Trevor Ulman (128 to 132 pounds) and Paul Dies (152 to 160 pounds).
“Joey Bowen has a very aggressive style that fits perfectly into what tone we want in our wrestlers, and I look forward to see what he can accomplish this season and beyond,” the coach said. “Brayden Kirk has worked hard in the preseason open mats. I see a technical wrestler who can make a difference scoring in many of our duals and tournaments this season. Trevor Ulman is a hard worker who will be called on early to contribute to the team as he adapts to high school wrestling. Paul Dies has worked hard in the offseason to develop to the upper-weight classes. He is a solid technical wrestler who will also be put to the test early and I have all the confidence will meet that challenge.”
According to Easterling, sophomore Dylan Rediger (132 to 138 pounds) is a wrestler who people may be surprised by this season.
“He was a district qualifier as a freshman,” the coach said. “His leadership and strong work ethic during our preseason activities is what gives me the belief he will really mature during his sophomore campaign.”
Manchester’s season will begin at the Coke Classic at Madison Comprehensive High School in Mansfield on Dec. 1. Easterling’s assistant coaches are Thomas Smith, Jim Miller and Dan Ferguson.
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