The eighth-ranked LaRue County Mat Hawks open the wrestling season Saturday at Oldham County. The young grapplers and their coach are looking to a return to being one of the top teams in the state.
“Last year was a learning experience for the young guys on the team,” said head coach Gary Canter. “This year, after having a year at the varsity level, my expectations for this team are as they have always been – win the regional tournament and finish top five in the state.”
While the team is young, the team has several highly ranked wrestlers. The top 10 pre-season ranked wrestlers are: Des Jakes at the 152 pound weight class is second in the state; Nick Paden at 103 is ranked third; freshmen Bernard Ray at 160 is fifth; Justin Thompson at 112 and Shaquille Cox at 140 are ranked eighth; Logan Hull is ninth at 130; and Drew Newberry at 215 is 10th.
“I don’t put too much stock in preseason rankings,” said Canter, “because first, these guys probably won’t be at those weights to start the season and second, this just means we have some wrestlers who people around the state recognize as good wrestlers. We do indeed have many good wrestlers on this team and bottom line is, that is why I have high expectations for them.”
Canter said the team could experience a few bumps in the road early in the season until his wrestlers get to their expected weights.
“While we have experience at most weights, we are still a young team. Plus, we are thinking our guys will get to expected weights, but until we do, we may struggle early.”
Canter expects his four seniors to step up early and to help get this team to the second half of the season without experiencing too many bumps. The Hawk seniors are Thompson, Jakes, Hull and Brandon Ward.
“These four have been wrestling for many years now and this is their year. We are going to need for them to not only be performing on the mat, but also in the practice room pushing our young guys as hard as they can go.”
Canter has put together a very tough schedule to prepare his team for a late season push for championships and the early season is filled with challenges. This could quite possibly be the toughest December any of his teams have ever experienced.
“We may be looking forward to January,” said Canter. “This is a tough first part of the season.”
The Mat Hawks will face number one ranked Trinity and number three ranked Union the first week in January.
In December, the team opens the season at Oldham County super duals where they are the defending tournament champions. At this dual’s tournament, the Hawks face fifth ranked John Hardin, 10th ranked Seneca, 11th ranked Oldham County and 12th ranked Simon Kenton.
The second week in December the Hawks will head north to the Ryle Rumble. The defending state champions from Grundy High School in Virginia will be there, as well as Trinity, third ranked Union and fourth ranked Ryle.
The season just gets tougher from there as the third weekend of the season, LaRue hosts the 2nd Region regional duals where they will have a showdown with the John Hardin Bulldogs. After wrestling on Friday and Saturday, the Hawks will travel to Tennessee on Sunday where they will prepare for the Pigeon Forge Super Duals on Monday and Tuesday. Two of the top four teams in Tennessee will be there as well as the defending state champions from Alabama and Georgia.
“On that last week of wrestling, our guys will be wrestling 17 duals in a matter of four days,” said Canter. “Add in the fact that we will be facing some great competition, and I have the feeling this team will not be sad to see December end.”
To sum it up, in December, the Mat Hawks will take on the top five teams in Kentucky, the defending state champions from Virginia, Alabama and Georgia and two top five teams from Tennessee.
“I guess I will have a pretty good idea as to the character of this team after December,” said Canter, with a smile. “I guess each of these guys will have a better understanding of themselves as well. To be the best, you have to face the best. As I said, my goal is for this team to once again win the regional tournament and finish top five in the state. I am going to do my part, now we will see if this team will rise to the challenge.”
LaRue County High School
Varsity Wrestling Schedule
Dec. 6 Away Oldham Co. Super Duals 8 a.m.
Dec. 13 Away Ryle Raider Rumble 8 a.m.
Dec. 19 Home Region 2 Duals 6 p.m.
Dec. 20 Home Region 2 Duals 9 a.m. Dec. 22-23 Away Pigeon Forge Duals TBA
Jan. 3 Away Central Hardin Duals 8 a.m.
Jan. 9-10 Away Region 2 Duals Danville TBA
Jan. 17 Away Central Hardin 6 p.m.
Jan. 21 Away John Hardin TBA
Jan. 31 Away State Wresting Duals TBA
Feb. 5 Home Oldham Duals (senior night) 6 p.m.
Feb. 14 Away Fort Knox Tournament TBA
Feb. 19-21 Away State Wresting Championships