Anthony Shrewsberry goes into each season with high expectations. Last season, with a team heavy on seniors, was no different.
"It was a mixed bag," said Shrewsberry, going into his fifth season as Shady Spring's head wrestling coach. "I had a kid who I thought should have won regionals, (Tristan) Tate, that blew his knee out at regionals. So he didn't qualify for the state tournament. He had beat everybody in the tournament.
"We sent most of our kids, other than two, that I thought should go to the state tournament. But when we got to the state tournament, we had some pretty good kids and we just got some really tough draws."
Case in point: Kolby Ellis and Ethan Morgan had successful seasons at 220 and 285 pounds, respectively. But Ellis ran into finalist Gavin Shamblin in the second round, while Morgan met four-time state champion Zach Frazier.
"It goes back to you've got to win your region," Shrewsberry said. "If you want the best road to the finals, you have to win your region."
The Tigers lost seven seniors in all, including four of their five state qualifiers — Ellis (220, third in Region 3), Morgan (285, Region 3 runner-up), Myles Coffman (132, fourth in Region 3) and Riley Chapman (160, Region 3 runner-up). Also gone is Tate, who wound up sixth at Region 3 after his injury, as well as Matthew Sweeney and Tianna Godbey.
That group meant a lot to Shrewsberry, who debuted as coach when they were freshmen. He's especially happy about what their futures hold — Sweeney, Tate and Morgan, for example, are all in the Air Force.
"I think that's what I am proudest of those kids for," Shrewsberry said. "They are all going to make a difference."
Shrewsberry said the seniors provided a strong presence to the team.
"They were all leaders in the practice room, but I'm lucky that I've got four seniors coming up this year that have wrestled for the last three years that can step into that role," he said. "Those guys were pretty good leaders and they set a good example for these kids coming up."
Braydon Harper (182) is back after getting injured in his first match of last season at the Raider Rumble at Liberty. Levi Price (145) was a state qualifier as a freshman and finished fifth in Region 3 the last two seasons. Andrew Shrewsberry (152) will be on a mission of redemption after not qualifying for the state tournament last season. Bretton Wood will be at 195.
Junior Joshua Goode will wrestle at 126 for the third consecutive year. He placed fourth at the state tournament each of the last two seasons. Shrewsberry said Goode, who has over 90 wins in two seasons, had been on target to break the school record of 150 career wins, set by Brandon Stump.
"It's going to be a little more difficult now with the shortened season due to Covid," Shrewsberry said. "He's a good kid. He's dedicated to the sport. He works hard at his craft in the offseason. And he's been in the room since he was a little kid, the fifth or sixth grade."
Also back are wrestlers who were in and out of the starting lineup last season.
Junior Landon Chambers will wrestle at 138. He wrestled at the same weight classes as the more experienced Andrew Shrewsberry and Price last season and has fought for his spot. Sophomore Martin Rivas will slide in at 170, and junior Ethan Martin will be at 132 after taking last season off.
Tayla Grove, Erica Epperly and Lesley Ward will also wrestle and will be competing in the second annual West Virginia Girls Championships March 20 at Blennerhassett Middle School. Grove placed third at 136 last year.
Shrewsberry will also be looking to some freshmen this year. Through it all, he still expects a successful season.
"Realistically, I'd like to see us in the top four (in Region 3)," he said. "With as many young kids as we've got, we're really going to have to step up our game to be one of the final two teams in the region, but I think we definitely have the potential to be three or four. And I'd like to see at least six or seven kids at the state tournament. I think that's realistic."
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