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Ready or not, another high school wrestling season is upon us.
The season officially began Saturday, but most teams don’t usually get started until the week after Thanksgiving break.
Things kick into high gear this week as teams and individuals chase the ultimate prize: a state championship. It’s non-stop action from here until February, when the state tournament is held.
Here’s a brief look at some of the changes and story lines shaping up for this season.
WEIGHT CLASSES. The weights were bumped up this season. The weights are now 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
The changes were made in April by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in its annual meeting in Indianapolis. The last significant change came in 1988, when the lowest weight class was increased to 103 pounds from 98.
“The weight class I kind of thought was coming,” LaRue County coach Gary Canter said in April. “I like the fact that they’re moving the lowest weight class up. The only bad thing is it took away one of the middle weight classes, which is typically where you have the most kids wrestling.
“I’m kind of indifferent on it. I can see good things, and I can see bad,” he added. “It hurts the middle weights and helps the upper weights. It works both ways, I guess. Typically most teams have had a harder time filling the upper weights than they have the middle.”
STATE VENUE, LENGTH CHANGED. The state tournament will no longer be held at the Frankfort Civic Center as the venue’s contract with the KHSAA ran out after last season.
Now, State will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena in Lexington – and the tournament has been reduced from three days to two. Wrestlers will no longer miss three days of school to compete.
Alltech Arena provides more room for mats than the Civic Center. Only four mats could be used in the Civic Center. As many as six can be used at the Alltech Arena, meaning the tournament won’t take as long to complete.
But what the tournament gains in space, it might lose in atmosphere. Coaches, fans and athletes alike were partial to the Civic Center in part because fans were so close to the action. That might not be the case at the Horse Park.
THE RETURN OF DREW NEWBERRY. The LaRue County senior standout, who went undefeated en route to a 215-pound state title as a sophomore, is back after missing last season with a knee injury suffered in football season.
And Newberry has assumed the role he had two seasons ago: No. 1. Newberry is the top-ranked wrestler at 220 pounds and is considered – once again – a top pick to win the title.
HAWKS RANKED NO. 1. Could this be the year LaRue County finally wins a state title? The Hawks are ranked No. 1 in the state in the Oct. 27 rankings released on kentuckywrestling.com.
The Hawks feature three top-ranked grapplers in Newberry, and seniors Shawn Hull (160) and Bernard Ray (195). Junior Caleb Canter (152) is ranked third, senior Nick Paden (126) and junior B.J. Carman (285) are ranked fourth, and junior Spencer Hines (113) and sophomore Raymundo Perez (132) are ranked fifth.
LaRue County is also going for its fourth straight Region 2 title.