CLINTON TWP. — The Lackawanna Trail wrestling team may have finished last season with an 8-12 record, but head coach Keith Youtz believes the program is moving in the right direction.
“I think the kids are going to compete and battle more,” Youtz said. “I think they are going to survive longer in matches and we’re going to have a better year, even if our record stays the same or gets worse. We have individuals who are working hard.
“A couple younger guys came up and they’re into it, they’re not complaining. It takes time to learn the technique and we have some guys who only have one or two years of experience, but the attitude of the group is much better.”
The Lions return eight wrestlers with varsity experience from last year’s team.
Senior Trent Ashley is expected to compete at 145 pounds, senior DJ Klinges and junior Colin Mulhern will compete at 170, senior Mark DeBree and junior Carter Crook are back at 182, senior Jacob Wescott returns at 220, junior Cody Moyle will wrestle at 160, and sophomore Cullen Ratchford will be at 132.
“We have a little more experience,” Youtz said. “We’re also building a junior high team; they won our division last year and they’re going to be a contender again. They’re going to be here next year, which will really help.”
Youtz has been impressed by the determination shown by Ratchford, who won 27 matches last season, in both meets and practices.
“He’s really unorthodox, but he never quits,” Youtz said. “He’ll go with anybody — it doesn’t matter if the kid is 140 or 150 pounds, he’ll wrestle him. He gets out of position a lot, but he doesn’t stop and comes up on top.”
Senior Owen Hivner, who transferred from Abington Heights, will start the season at 182 pounds, but Youtz expects him to drop down to 170 later in the season.
According to Youtz, Hivner has been a welcome addition to the team due to his knowledge of the sport.
“Owen coming in here really helps because he knows how to wrestle and the kids respect him,” Youtz said. “He says something and they want to listen. It’s good to have a leader in there.”
Seniors Quinn Jagoe and Koyotie Vilchock, who is expected to compete at 120; junior Bryce VanFleet at 220; sophomores Tynell Bracero at 285 and Jeffrey Resto at 152; and freshmen Ricky Davis at 126, Duke Klinges at 138 and David Adams at 285 are also new to the team this season.
Youtz pegged Honesdale as the early favorite to win the Lackawanna League 2 championship.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.