By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
After a strong finish to last season, the North Marion Huskies are looking to up the pace on the mat this season.
With their opening match this Friday, head coach Dave Tennant is looking for his guys to be consistent this season.
The Huskies come into the season with an undefeated state champion in senior Ryan Elliott, who looks to repeat for his senior season.
“I guess we’ve got to find him stronger competition,” Tennant joked. “If he goes undefeated he’s not wrestling strong enough kids.”
Tennant is doing his best, though, to keep Elliott focused going into his final year.
“It’s easy to be distracted during your senior year,” Tennant said. “But I think Ryan will be one of those guys to not let it get to him.”
Tennant knows, though, that one guy can’t carry the load of the entire team, especially in a sport like wrestling.
“We had four seniors graduate,” Tennant said. “We’re left with one lone senior, Ryan Elliott, which is great senior leadership.”
Around Elliott, Tennant will have Ryan and Tyler Arnett, who wrestled at 145 and 182, respectively, last season. But the Huskies will be without Ryan until possibly late December, as he’s out with a broken toe.
“Tyler was a state runner-up last season,” Tennant said. “He’ll probably end up at 195 this season but he’s at 220 right now.”
To make up for the loss of Ryan Arnett, junior Austin Stanley, who wrestled at 138 last season, will step in to fill the void at the 145 weight class.
Behind those four guys, Tennant believes he has a group of young wrestlers who could step up at any point.
“We’ve got a nice group of freshman coming in,” Tennant noted. “We’ve got some good experience. Our sophomore class is coming on and if they keep developing like the should, then they’ll step up.”
One of those sophomores is returning wrestler Gavin Barker.
“He’s going to be one of our guys,” Tennant said. “I look forward to him being one of our consistent wrestlers this year. He’s a hard worker.”
With it being early on in the season, some holes remain open for the Huskies, which could end up hurting them at some point in the season.
“We’re hurting because we don’t have a 113-pounder,” Tennant explained. “Team wise, I hate to have holes. I know there’s little guys out there who could do really well.”
Tennant explained, though, that he still has some tinkering to do and some guys could be in different weight classes this season.
But for the time being, they’re thinking about their first match at Hedgesville this Friday, a dual tournament in which their holes could hurt them.
“In a dual match, it hurts to give an opponent points because we have a hole,” Tennant explained. “Hedgesville is a two-day dual match. We’ll have 10 matches in two days and they’re all duals.”
With the holes, though, strategy will change just a bit for the Huskies.
“We might not be a very strong dual team but that just means our older guys will have to make a lot of pins,” the coach said.
With that, Tennant gave way to say that he’s thankful to have a pair of former wrestlers at his disposal as coaches to help his team progress in that area.
The Huskies have added assistant coach Rusty Elliott to the staff to compliment former head coach Jay Michael.
“Rusty was one of the best wrestlers in North Marion history and I’m thankful to have him and Jay on my staff,” Tennant said.
The Huskies will get the chance to start their season off this Friday in Hedgesville.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.