Three THS seniors at head of 2004-05 wrestling class
Tonganoxie grapplers better find some fluffy pillows.
They've got some long bus rides in their future.
The Chieftains open the season Saturday in Kearney, Neb., and then head across the Sunflower State to the Goodland Tournament.
Tonganoxie also will compete at the Salina South Invitational on Jan. 8.
The Salina tournament has been on the Chieftain schedule in recent years, but the other two jaunts -- both involving several hours on the road -- are new to the wrestling slate.
"We need challenged and pushed early in the season," THS coach Jeremy Goebel said. "If we don't win, it won't matter."
Tonganoxie is small in numbers -- only 16 wrestlers are out this season.
But two of those wrestlers were state qualifiers last winter.
Senior Ross Starcher, who will be shooting for his fourth state appearance, went 41-4 last season for THS and had Kaw Valley League and Class 4A Regional titles to his credit.
"I don't see why he can't contend for a state title," Goebel said. "That's his goal."
Fellow seniors Garrett Palmer and Hunter Samuels have set goals to place at state. Like Starcher, Palmer made a state appearance last year. He finished the season at 29-12.
As for Samuels, he has been a solid component of the wrestling program since his freshman year and he is looking to cap off his career with a state bid.
"Hunter Samuels is the most improved by far," Goebel said. "People wrestling him this year won't know he is Hunter.
"He's worked hard this summer. He's going to be a force to be reckoned with."
This year's senior trio replaces four seniors from last season. Chad Starcher (20-7), Brad Nickel (19-19), Jerry Hartshorn (24-18), Matt Weyer (22-8) and Alan Bauerly (16-19) all graduated.
Goebel will look for a big freshman class to help this year's squad. Grapplers such as Bo Waters, Ryan Stockman and Shane Banks should make immediate impacts.
"We've got a good freshman class," Goebel said. "We've got a lot of freshmen, which is needed. You can see the progress developing."
Waters will wrestle at 103 pounds, a weight class that Goebel hasn't been able to fill the last two years.
"That just starts your whole day off," Goebel said about having wrestler at 103.
Junior Josh Maxon returns for anther season, while Jeff Frank, who hasn't wrestled for the last few years, is back on the mat as a true heavyweight.
"He's quick for a big guy," Goebel said.
Sophomore Ben Dobbins returns with regional experience as a freshman last year, while Ben Stevens is entering his first year with the Chieftains.
"If he sticks with it, he has a heart of gold and works hard," Goebel said. "Once he gets some experience, he's going to be in the mix."
With a small squad, this season could be an uphill battle for THS grapplers, especially with the upgraded schedule.
From Goebel's view, the Chieftains have made noticeable strides since preseason workouts started in mid-November.
"From Day 1 to now, we're 90 times better," Goebel said. "We're progressing from a coach's standpoint.
"Basics win matches at the high school level, that's kind of my pet peeve. We have those down to a tee."
Projected weight classes
103 Bo Waters
119 Ryan Stockman
125 Ben Dobbins, Jacob Ferris
130 Hunter Samuels
135 Shane Banks, Shawn Everhart
140 Wesley Armstrong, Shane Banks
145 Garrett Palmer, Jonathan Ferris
152 Wyatt Coffin, Wesley Armstrong
171 Ross Starcher, Ben Stevens
189 Josh Maxon
215 Cameron Adcox
275 Jeff Frank