Manchester wrestling coach looking for team to take next step
NEW FRANKLIN — While the Manchester High School wrestling team has yet to win a dual meet this season, head coach JR Easterling said that isn’t exactly the best way to define his team this year.
“Currently, we’re 0-2, but that’s just because we have a small squad this year and we forfeit several weight classes. We go in spotting teams 20-plus points,” he said. “We’ve had pretty good turnouts at tournaments, but we’re just not a dual meet team this year. I think in every tournament, we’ve had at least two champs or at least multiple placers, so I’ve been very happy with their progression.”
Easterling said the team’s “veterans have wrestled very well” throughout the year.
“They’ve done a nice job on not getting down,” he stated. “They have worked hard toward committing to our end goal, which is improving our position from fourth in the PAC [Principals Athletic Conference] and even taking a shot at doing the difficult task of trying to three-peat as sectional champs. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The team’s lone senior this year is Adam Zechman (145 to 152 pounds).
“He’s been a great senior, and he’s working hard,” the coach said. “He was a [junior varsity] kid for pretty much the first three years, and he ended up being one who stuck it out this year. He’ll be lettering for his first time, and he’s managed to wrestle well in almost all of our tournaments. He’s picked up wins and given us a point or two here and there. He’s done a very nice job with all of the demands of being a senior.”
According to Easterling, junior Jake Hanzel (285 pounds) has been a rock for the team.
“We expected a lot out of him — he’s a captain and a returning district qualifier — and he has done a very nice job of being a consistent wrestler in the group through all of the tournaments,” the coach said. “He’s taken first or second at every tournament.”
Among the younger wrestlers, Easterling lauded freshmen Paul Dies and Tim Clark and sophomore Brett Thomas as positive surprises for Manchester.
“Paul has done a very nice job. He had a slow start — he wasn’t able to wrestle at our first tournament — but has since placed in a couple of tournaments and wrestled very well,” he said. “Tim is new to the sport, but he’s already won a couple of matches. He’s had a couple of wins that we weren’t even expecting. He’s contributed very nicely. And Brett is a great kid to have in the room. The kids rally around him.”
For the remainder of the season, Easterling said he is looking for his team to take the next step forward.
“We’re a young team. I want to see our guys start to make the transition from the mistakes you see freshmen make, such as going wide-eyed into big tournaments and being intimidated by kids, and I want them to go out and wrestle physical every single match, regardless of who or where they’re wrestling,” he said. “I’d especially like to see our younger guys pick up a few more wins and shoot for loftier goals. It will just take more focus and dedication.”
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