Bobcats’ wrestling squad welcomes promising group of freshmen
Basehor-Linwood High School wrestling coach Scott Neil had 27 kids come out for his team this year. That's more than double what he had last year, but the flip side of that good news is that 16 of them are freshmen. Talented but raw wrestlers, in need of lots of guidance and time to learn.
"It's a learning year for them; I think they'll see some success, but I don't know if they're ready for the higher levels," Neil said. "Unfortunately patience is not one of my virtues, but I'm going to have to make it one of my virtues."
Neil is ready and willing to put in the time with this group of freshmen because they've shown so much promise in junior high. In the last two years the group went undefeated in dual meets and took first in every tournament but one.
The freshman class includes a number of kids from respected wrestling families, like Brian Pemberton, Martin Buck and Joe Johnson.
Wrestling seems to run in the blood even more than other sports, so that would seem to be a promising sign.
Many of the young Bobcats will get their chance to make an impact on the varsity squad this season, considering the number of experienced wrestlers who won't be back. Gone are seniors Dustin Sullivan, Zach Davis, Will Peterson, Dustin Weimer and Brandon Magaha.
Gone too, at least so far, are sophomore Swede Johnson and juniors Travis Inlow and Stephen Millison. All three have decided not to come out for the team this year, although Neil said he'd welcome them back if they changed their minds.
"A few didn't come back, but I'm still keeping the door open for them," Neil said.
If Swede Johnson doesn't decide to come back, that would seem to open up another door for junior Ethan Douglas. Douglas started out last season as the team's varsity heavyweight, but Johnson beat him out for the spot late in the year.
With Johnson gone it would seem that the spot belongs to Douglas again.
Neil said he'd been watching Douglas on the football field this fall and liked what he saw. At 6-foot-6, 273-pounds, Douglas is a physical speciman, but Neil knows there's more to wrestling than sheer size and strength.
"I know Ethan's improved as far as coordination and stuff," Neil said. "He's got a ways to go, but he's just such a big kid, and it seems like he's getting bigger all the time. It's still kind of like he's a young kid in a really big body."
Neil has only a few experienced wrestlers besides Douglas in the fold. They include sophomores Josh Bowen and Austin Call. Most of the team's success this year will likely rest on the shoulders of the freshmen.
That means that there might be some lean times in the bigger meets, including the Bobcat Classic. But the future is bright for those patient enough to wait for it.