Wrestlers hope to continue recent tradition
Tonganoxie finished the 1999-2000 wrestling campaign with a third-place Kaw Valley League finish.
Last season, the Chieftains finished second in the league with an 8-3-1 record.
The recent trend would indicate Tonganoxie High School is ready for the next spot on the pole.
The Chieftains lost three seniors who qualified for State on last year's squad, but return three qualifiers this season in seniors Steve Adcox and Josh Ferris and sophomore Chad Starcher. Adcox is ranked in the state preseason polls tied for fifth in Class 4A's 145-pound division, while Ferris is tied for sixth in the 125-pound ranking.
The team lost Willy Altman, Mike Andrews and Tony Miller to graduation. Those three had a combined record of 66-27 last season.
The three returning State qualifiers had equally strong numbers, posting a combined 70-38 record. The Chieftains also return four other seniors, including Pat Weyer who posted a 22-11 campaign last season. Other seniors are Mitchell McGinnis, Jerod Starcher and Ryan McWilliams.
Despite having most of the team back this season, THS coach Bill DeWitt said work still needs to be done for a program that also finished sixth in regionals last season.
"We still have a long way to go at least to the level I want to be," DeWitt said.
The fifth-year Chieftain coach said the program has started to build a tradition with grade-school club teams and junior high teams. The younger starts are important in wrestling as wrestling skills take longer to develop than other sports, DeWitt said.
DeWitt also plans to use stiff non-conference competition as a program builder. Tonganoxie added larger tournaments to its schedule, including the Salina South invitational on Jan. 5. The tournament will feature 6A schools, including defending State champion Wichita West, and traditional 4A power Spring Hill.
"We try to avoid K-State's football approach," DeWitt said. "You can't get better if you don't compete against better programs.
"We may go down there and get our butts kicked, but we won't back down from anybody."
Of his 29 wrestlers, DeWitt expects Adcox, Ferris and Weyer to be the team's leaders.
"I look for them to be vocal and maybe make my job a little easier," DeWitt said.
Tonganoxie opens the season Saturday at the Atchison Tournament.