Braves eager to test KVL waters
Bonner Springs has high hopes with nine returning state qualifiers
Before the Bonner Springs High School wrestling team stepped onto the mat this season, the Braves had already failed to reach one team goal.
Not to worry BSHS wrestling fans, this team goal was strictly about quantity.
The Braves only had 22 wrestlers come out for the team, six less than the desired amount to field a full varsity and junior varsity team.
Despite the slightly smaller number than expected, Burns said the quality of this year's team is as good as it has been in a while. And as he gets set to begin his second full season as head coach, the team's talent has the Braves setting some lofty goals this season.
"They're going to set their goals high," BSHS coach Dan Burns said. "They want to win a trophy. And, really I don't think we're any different than any team in the state. We want to win a state title."
With nine returning state qualifiers that goal, although lofty, might be reachable.
Burns said he expects his five seniors to be a big reason the team stays motivated and approaches each meet with a business-like attitude.
Four of the five seniors (David Bass, Spencer Buck, Jeff Burns and Chad Vandenberg) qualified for state last season, and Burns said he expects that group along with Chris Carpenter, to have a good shot this year.
"The five seniors are the leaders of this team," Burns said. "And they're good leaders. They're responsible for the team rules, they're responsible for teaching the younger guys what it means to be in the Bonner Springs wrestling program and they do a lot of leading by example. They're a great group."
Bass returns as the Braves' most accomplished wrestler. He placed third at state.
But the other three were just a match or two from earning a medal last February.
Leading the list of returning underclassmen is a group of juniors capable of taking the team to the next step.
Jess Buck, Danny Gardner, Myjestic Hickmon, Matt Middleton and Erick Ratliff all made the trip to Wichita last season and Burns said they're experience and hunger should be a huge advantage for the Braves.
"It's a great deal," he said. "We're carrying a lot over from last year. We'd love to start right where we left off, but we might have to use these first couple meets to knock some of the rust off."
Burns said the Braves are already worlds ahead of where they were at this time last year and said that is an indication of the experience and the hard work that each wrestler put in during the offseason.
The Braves' extra effort will be tested early and often this season. Burns said the team will tackle a more difficult schedule in 2002, but that because of the quality of the team this year was the right year for the challenge.
"We have a real difficult schedule, we strengthened it a lot," Burns said. "But it was time to do it. With as many state qualifiers as we have coming back, it will be a good challenge for this team."
The first test came Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Louisburg dual. The Braves faced Basehor-Linwood and Piper, but results were not available at press time.
BSHS's next action will be Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Leavenworth Tournament.