• Val T.

Rochester wrestling preview: After winning TRC, sectional, Zebras set higher goals for new season

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

The Rochester wrestling team won the Three Rivers Conference and sectional titles last year, and they qualified six wrestlers for semistate.

Of the six semistate qualifiers, none of them made state.

But all of them are back this year with the exception of the graduated Wade Shafer and Noah Swango.

The sport is popular at Rochester. The team lists 38 wrestlers – six girls and 32 boys – on its roster.

“Kids worked really, really hard this offseason,” Rochester coach Clint Gard said. “We pretty much as soon as wrestling season was over last year after semistate, I think maybe we took a week or two off. We were right back in the weight room. We had a great weight room attendance this summer – spring, summer, fall, really. … We went to wrestling camp. We were wrestling two days a week over the summer. Wrestled in a bunch of duals.

“I’m guessing that kids that participated in everything from the end of season to August, I’m guessing they had 60 or 70 matches (each). Obviously, not every kid is going to do that, and we understand that. And that’s fine. But our varsity group, the guys that are coming back this year, put in a lot of time.”

The returning semistate qualifiers are Ethan Holloway, who made semistate last year at 113 and who bumps up to 120 for his junior season; Greyson Gard, who will move up from 145 to 152; 220-pound sophomore Brady Beck; and senior heavyweight Marshall Fishback.

“We’re going to be pretty solid from 152 to heavyweight,” coach Gard said. “And once we get Wyatt and some of those guys in the right spot, we’re going to be very solid there too. We're not bad up and down the lineup.”

Gard hopes that Beck and Fishback, both of whom are also two-way starting linemen on the football team, at the back of the lineup.

Look for junior Eli Swango to move down from 195 to 170. Senior Kaleb Shaffer will move up from 170 to 182, and sophomore Alex Deming will bump up from 182 to 195.

Eli Swango often wrestled opponents who weighed significantly more than he did last year. This year, he figures to be more physically comparable with his opponents as he moves down two weight classes.

“He was giving up probably 15, 20 pounds,” coach Gard said of Eli Swango. “So he’ll be more of his natural weight class this year, which will be way better for him.”

The lighter weights could also be a strength. Cooper Winn is a junior and a newcomer at 106. Wyatt Davis is a promising freshman who could wrestle at 106 or 113 but has also spent time away from the time as he grieves after a “family tragedy” that coach Gard did not elaborate upon. Joey Spencer could compete with Davis for the spot at 113, or he might take it outright if Davis wrestles at 106. Holloway is at 120. Aaron Swango, a junior and Eli’s twin brother, returns at 126.

“Ethan’s much improved, put in a ton of time,” Gard said of Holloway. “Had a couple injuries this spring and summer but has come back really, really strong. One of the unquestioned leaders in our room.”

Look for sophomore D.J. Basham and freshman Brock Bickle to compete for the spot at 132. Junior Mitchell Shafer will move up from 132 to 138, and senior Nathaniel Beck will move up from 138 to 145.

The regular season schedule includes a dual meet at defending regional champion Western on Dec. 22, the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association team state duals in Fort Wayne on Jan. 8 and a home dual against Tippecanoe Valley on Jan. 12.

Oak Hill, who is also in Rochester’s regional, is the defending semistate champion.

“We’re right there,” coach Gard said when asked if they are close to being able to compete with Western and Oak Hill. “Our goals are to win our conference, sectional and regional. We want to be top three in our semistate. Our eyes are on winning a team state title in 1A. I think we have the firepower to do it. I think those are very realistic goals. If we can keep everybody on track and get guys in the right weight class and keep them focused, all the other things that come with dealing with high school kids, if we can keep those guys going where they need to go, we’re right there with anybody this year.”

Girls

The six girls include junior Jadyn Geller (126) and sophomore Grace Hiroms (160), who finished seventh and fourth at state in their respective weight classes last year.

Rochester finished eighth out of 21 teams at the season-opening meet at Northview High School last week.

Hiroms and Nachelle Gentry (152) finished second in their respective weight classes. Geller was fifth.

Senior Hailey Ferguson (145), freshman Luc Rangel (120) and sophomore Amber Blackburn (126) round out the roster.

Indiana is one of 18 states that does not sanction girls high school wrestling. Coach Gard believes that the IHSAA will recognize girls wrestling in “one to two years.”

Rochester wrestling schedule

Nov. 19 – at Manchester, 6:30 p.m. (W, 58-21)

Nov. 23 – vs. Pioneer, 6:30 p.m. (W, 72-6)

Dec. 2 – at Wabash, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 – vs. Peru/North Miami/Whitko, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 11 – at Jim Nicholson Invitational at Elkhart, 9 a.m.

Dec. 18 – vs. Rochester John McKee Memorial Invitational, 8:45 a.m.

Dec. 22 – at Western, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 28 – at North Montgomery Invitational, Day 1, 9 a.m.

Dec. 29 – at North Montgomery Invitational, Day 2, 9 a.m.

Jan. 4 – vs. Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 8 – at IHSWCA team state duals at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, 9 a.m.

Jan. 12 – vs. Tippecanoe Valley, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 22 – at Three Rivers Conference tournament at Maconaquah, 9 a.m.

Jan. 29 – at Maconaquah sectional, 9 a.m.

Feb. 5 – at Maconaquah regional, 9 a.m.

Feb. 12 – at Fort Wayne semistate at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, 9 a.m.

Feb. 18-19 – at IHSAA state finals at Gainbridge Coliseum, Indianapolis


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