The LaRue County Mat Hawks have won four dual state championships, 11 regional championships and numerous tournament titles over the team's 21-year existence, but the team has never won the overall state tournament title. This is the year the coaches hope will end that drought.
“We have been close twice before,” said head coach Gary Canter, “but we have fallen short both of those times. In 2001 we beat St. X for the state dual title, but they won the tournament title. In 2006, Matt Miller got injured the night before the tournament and couldn't wrestle, and we fell again just a few points short. It is almost as if we are cursed or something.”
The curse seems to have come back to haunt this team as the Hawks started out the year clear favorites until returning state champion Drew Newberry went down with an ACL tear during football season. The Mat Hawks fell in the preseason polls from first to third ... just a few points out of first.
Even without Newberry, from top to bottom, this team looks to be loaded and ready to make a serious run at a state tournament title.
“This year it is hard to say which area is our strongest area,” said Canter. “We have quality wrestlers everywhere in our lineup.”
In the lower weights, freshman Kyle Edlin and sophomore Tanner Mouser are battling for the 103-pound spot.
“Kyle has been wrestling for several years and has experience, and Tanner has really started to show great improvement this year,” said Canter.
At the 112 and 119 spots, three quality wrestlers are vying for mat time. They are sophomore Spencer Hines and juniors Dylan Sheldon and Nick Paden.
“Between those three, you have about 20 years wrestling experience already,” said Canter.
At the 125 and 130 pound spots, freshman Raymundo Perez, junior Taylor Albert, and senior Marshall Miller look to get most of the mat time.
“Again, tons of experience these three wrestlers have,” said Canter. “All three are hard workers.”
If there is a strength on this team, it may be the 135, 140 and 145 weight classes. Sophomore Caleb Canter and seniors Shaquille Cox and Shelby Floyd will be filling those spots.
“I am not sure who will be at what weight specifically, but these three will be there one way or the other and we are pretty doggone tough at all three weights,” said Canter.
At the 152, 160 and 171 weights, the Hawks have seniors Cody Williams and Vince Couch along with junior Shawn Hull fighting for mat time.
“I think Shawn is finally ready to go from being really good to a state champion caliber wrestler. He is looking pretty good as well as Cody and Vince right now in practice,” said Canter.
At the upper weights of 189, 215 and 285, the Hawks have juniors Bernard Ray and Eli Meredith, sophomores Nathan Bell and B.J. Carman along with senior Michael Vincent looking to get mat time.
“Michael is a first-year wrestler, but he is already looking good. The others have years of experience between them and will give us quality win after quality win at these weights,” said Canter.
The goal for this year's team is the state tournament said Canter.
“I keep reminding myself of that. We are aiming at the end of the year and getting that overall title. If we lose early, so be it. I will not sacrifice early season wins over the state tournament title.”
The Hawks will face an early season test as this Saturday there will be a good chance the Mat Hawks will face fourth ranked Simon Kenton at Oldham County. “They gave us all we could handle last year at this tournament, “said Canter. “They are better than last year and if we both wrestle to our abilities, we will meet in the finals and it will be a war. It should be fun.”