Steady progress key for young Highland wrestling squad
GRANGER — Highland High School wrestling head coach Paul Casey said he has seen “steady commitment and steady progress” from his team early in the season.
“We’re taking it kind of slow this year,” he said. “Our expectations are kind of just moderate for the beginning of the season. We want to see a steady growth from these guys, being that they are young. We only have one senior wrestling, so we’re relatively young. We don’t have any returning state qualifiers, and we have only one returning district qualifier in Marko Vilimonovic.”
Casey said the 120-pound junior had a record of 25-19 with 21 pins last year.
“This year, at the Smithville tournament, Marko pinned his way to the finals, but he suffered an injury in the final match. We couldn’t stop his nose from bleeding, so we had to tape it up, and I really think that affected his performance in the finals,” the coach said. “But a lot of his matches are exciting. He’s a pinner, and that’s what wrestling’s about. He worked really hard in the offseason in the weight room, and I think that’s what people have noticed about him.”
The team’s lone senior this season is Parker Moffa (126 pounds).
“Parker is an incredibly hard worker,” Casey said. “He’s developed a lot of strength over the offseason also. He’s definitely committed to making his senior year his best year.”
Other key wrestlers on the team this season, Casey said, include: sophomore Brandon Linder (132 pounds), junior Eddie Rininger (152 pounds) and sophomore Jacob Scavuzzo (170 pounds).
“Brandon kind of came out of the woodwork for us last year as a freshman. He’s pretty dynamic. He always gives 100 percent for the whole match, which is what you want to see. He’s developing and building,” the coach stated. “Eddie and Jacob were part of the Highland football team, and both guys spent an extra month on the gridiron. They’re really just kind of coming into the room, and we are seeing them come into their own.”
Casey said this year’s squad is small in numbers with only 12 wrestlers.
“We’re in a unique situation. In years past, we’ve had maybe 25 to 30 players, and you would generally lose a few to injuries, or because it’s a difficult sport or academics or whatever reason,” he said. “But it’s really difficult to win a dual meet when you’re forfeiting five weight classes. Even though we have 12 players, we don’t fill 12 weight classes because we have three guys at 120 pounds.”
One advantage to the smaller roster size, Casey said, is that it has led to “a very cohesive team.”
“We also have two new coaches,” he said. “John Whitman wrestled in high school in Pennsylvania, and he coached for a few years in South Carolina. He’s a teacher for us here at Highland, and he’s been instrumental in helping to organize our team. He brings a positive attitude, and he has helped with building that cohesion. We also added Bob Noall, who retired from Southeast High School last season after 33 years. He was interested in continuing to coach, and that was a bonus for us. He brings a lot of experience.”
According to Casey, November was “all about learning,” and now the team is ready to put what it has learned into action.
“We worked a lot on technique last month,” he said. “So now, in December, we’re going to make a shift from learning to drilling. We have a good skill set down now, and the coaching staff agreed that we couldn’t really drill hard until we learned the technique properly. And that’s where we are now.”
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