Every wrestling coach will learn things about his team as the season unfolds. This weekend will provide a nice starting point.
The fifth annual Raider Rumble will kick off the season Saturday morning at Liberty High School. Wrestling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on three mats.
Joining the host Raiders will be defending champion Shady Spring, Woodrow Wilson, Oak Hill, Greenbrier East B, Richwood, PikeView, Princeton, Logan, Man, Chapmanville and George Wythe (Va.).
“It’s just a good tournament to open the season with,” Liberty coach Nick Hylton said. “We have a lot of local teams. Most wrestlers will not be at their final destination as far as their weight class is concerned. It’s decent competition.
“We will get an idea of what our kids need to work on through the season. We’ll see some local teams that we will see later at regionals and have an idea of what we need to do to try to get those wins.”
Hylton has several wrestlers back this year, including three state qualifiers from last season. The Raiders must replace 126-pounder Clayton Pettry, who was sixth in Region 3 last year.
Two of the qualifiers are seniors in twin brothers Davy and Billy Stoots. Davy, a state place winner in 2018, finished second in Region 3 at 138 pounds last season, while Billy was fourth at 145.
The goal is to keep Billy at 145. Davy, meanwhile, will start at 160.
“We’ll see how that goes,” Hylton said. “That’s a big jump for him.”
The other returning qualifier is junior heavyweight Jeff Bowles (fourth in Region 3).
Senior Devin Vance (220) qualified for the state tournament after a fourth-place regional, but he tore an ACL in the first game of football season and is likely out for the season.
“We have our fingers crossed that he might be released around regionals, but it doesn’t look like we will have him back,” Hylton said.
Also back are seniors Jesse Bradley, who was sixth in the region at 132 last year, and Jacob Stover. Bradley will move up to 138 and Stover will go at 182.
There will also be plenty of new faces to go around. The seniors have been helping get them acclimated.
“We’ve tried to separate the new guys and pair them up with guys who have experience as much as possible,” Hylton said. “If they are doing something the wrong way, they can stop, show them how to do it the right way and fix it. They have been doing a good job of that.”
Owen Wells and Jaeden Aylor have shown promise. Also in line to see mat time are Mark Rein, Peyton Pettry, Andrew Ellis, Cole Clay, Connor Treadway and Saul Goldsberry.
“(Practice) has been interesting,” Hylton said. “I have never had this many new kids in the room since I have been here. It’s been difficult to keep the experienced kids interested. I’m used to going in there and doing a lot of drill work and technique and moving through it quickly and having to go over it and over it. I can tell the experienced kids are bored with it. But we have covered a lot of stuff the first couple of weeks getting the new kids up to speed.”
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