The combination of the relative youth of the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton wrestling team, plus a lack of any of the typical summer wrestling camps, means that WEM/JWP coach Adam Roesler doesn’t know exactly what to expect this winter.
The Grizzlies graduated five seniors from last year, and will feature five seniors this year, but the overall progress of the team’s younger wrestlers will start to become clearer once WEM/JWP meets for its first in-person practice Jan. 4, leading up to the team’s first competition Jan. 14 — a home triangular against Medford and St. Clair.
“We’re going to be a young group that has a few senior-type guys that are going to be in the lineup that are going to lead the way and groom these guys into hard workers,” Roesler said. “A lot of things got shut down over the summer as far as opportunities to get out and go to camps and opportunities to get out and wrestle. Those things got limited way down because of all this COVID stuff, and that was a constant thing from the beginning of summer to the end of summer.
“We have not had a ton of opportunities to prove ourself on the mat, but I know there were guys that were putting in time in the weight room and doing little activities like that, and those are only going to help you out,” Roesler added.
Ethan Rider leads that senior class after a junior season in which he finished with a 16-5 regular-season record before placing fourth at the Section 2A tournament in the 160-pound weight class, in addition to earning all-conference recognition in the Gopher Conference.
“The guys that finished ahead of him were all seniors that graduated, and he’s coming back at the same weight,” Roesler said.
He’ll be joined in leading that senior class by Kurtis Crosby, who posted a 16-16 regular-season record prior to placing eighth at the Section 2A tournament in the 145-pound weight class. Roesler said he expects Crosby to bump up to 152 this season.
On the younger and smaller side, freshman Gavin Krause placed sixth at sections last year at 106, and Roesler said he’s expecting Krause to lead a relatively inexperienced group in the lighter weight classes.
Krause will likely be bumped up from 106, while eighth grader Carson Petry is a wrestler in contention to slide into his spot at the lightest weight class after Petry spent the offseason ticking his weight up closer to 106-pound mark.
“He was a guy that was just too small to make the lineup before and Gavin Krause was also at 106, so that put the squeeze on (Petry),” Roesler said. “This year he’s a full-sized 106-pounder for us, so he’ll be a nice anchor at the beginning of the lineup.”
Roesler also pointed to Keegan Kuball, an eighth grader that spent last year wrestling in the upper weight classes and finished seventh in the section tournament at 182.
“He’s kind of a bigger kid and he’s young, but he’ll make an impact and surprise a lot of people, I think,” Roesler said. “He’s pretty skilled for being as big as he is. At some point, he’s going to be a heavyweight-type kid. He has some growing to do as far as physicality that you’ll get as some of those matches up there, but he’ll beat kids.”