New faces abound, but goals still lofty for LHS wrestlers
A year ago the Lansing High wrestling team spent almost the entire season as the kings of Kansas Class 5A.
The Lions spent the entire regular season ranked No. 1 in the state, they landed three wrestlers in the state finals, had one individual state champion and placed fifth in the team standings.
This year LHS in many ways is the sleeping giant of Northeast Kansas.
The new-look Lions are barely recognizable in a number of ways. Gone are former state medalists Sean Flynn, Ryan Civils, Logan Ryan and Dennis Kessler. Gone is the practice room full of experienced depth. This year's Lansing squad is barely 20 wrestlers deep, and three-time state medalist Kyle Grape might miss the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Despite all of the changes, it would be foolish for opponents to overlook Lansing this year.
"We're definitely a tough group," senior Casey Caton said. "We're not as deep as we used to be, but there's going to be a lot of people that step up."
LHS coach Ron Averill agreed.
"We do have a lot of holes where we're going to have to fill," he said. "But we really have an awesome core coming back."
The Lions might not be as deep as they used to be, but they're still loaded with veteran experience. Senior Kyle Buehler was a state champion last year at 135 pounds. Junior Nick Flynn is a two-time state qualifier. Grape was a state champ in 2005 and a runner-up last year. Junior Dennis Wood (103 pounds), senior Scott Keller (119 pounds) and Caton all were state qualifiers last season. In addition, junior Brad Terron and sophomore Tyler Strouhal spent most of last year on varsity.
Averill said he is expecting to see breakthrough seasons out of Keller, Terron and Strouhal.
The returners likely will hold down varsity spots this season, but a number of spots still are up for grabs. Caton said there are plenty of worthy candidates to fill those spots.
"We had a lot of really good wrestlers wrestling under a lot of really good wrestlers last year," Caton said. "There were a lot of guys that didn't get much mat time on varsity last year that are going to step up this year."
Sophomore Wes Appleget is one of those wrestlers expected to step up. He got a taste of varsity action last year but wasn't one of the primary guys. Another example is senior Brad Zink. He spent the past few years as a sparring partner for Grape, two-time state qualifier Nick Flynn, 2006 state runner-up Sean Flynn and 2006 state champion Kyle Buehler. Zink will wrestle at 152 pounds this year as long as Grape is out.
"He's coming in with a wealth of experience," Averill said of Zink. "He's excited about the opportunity, and he's going to win matches for us."
Lansing's annual Red-White Scrimmage will take place Nov. 28. The Lions open the season Dec. 2 with a Kaw Valley League double-dual at Basehor-Linwood.
Preseason 5A Rankings
1. St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Wichita Bishop Carroll
5. Arkansas City
7. Valley Center
8. Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel
10. Topeka Seaman
*Rankings are determined by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.