The focus last year for the fledgling Thunder Mountain wrestling team was to start building a foundation for a successful program, but the bar has been set higher for the 2010-11 season.
"I'm shooting to bring 10 (wrestlers) to state. That's a pretty lofty goal because you have to win the region to go," Falcons coach Chad Requa said. "It's lofty, but I'm shooting to bring 10, and I'm shooting to place six."
But these expectations might not be too high for a team that only lost one senior from last season. And while there is some change from Thunder Mountain's inaugural season, Requa said he feels more comfortable in the early going of Year 2 of Falcons wrestling.
"Well I know some of the kids this time," he laughed. "Now that I know them, I know more about what they know. It's nice to be on the same page now, and I can bring them along right from where they left off."
Though Requa is more familiar with his athletes this season, he knows he still has a young team.
"We have a lot of new kids this year, too. I only had one senior last year, but we had a couple of guys move away," Requa said. "For the most part, most of the guys that were here last year are still here, and we added a bunch of new kids, so we're still a young team."
But he said even though the group is still young, they have plenty of leadership going forward. Senior captain Cameron Fronimos, 171 pounds, who suffered a concussion in the final football game of the season, will be cleared to wrestle next week, and 135-pound junior captain Thomas Riley both have the potential to make a run at state championships, Requa said. He also said he believes he could have four state champions at season's end, but he wouldn't go as far as naming names.
"They know who they are, I'm not going to mention names," Requa said. "But if I don't say somebody's name that thinks they can win it, we'll let them think they can anyway because that's what we want.
"We've got a good team as long as everything comes together and everybody stays healthy."
Regardless of team captaincy, Requa said he has plenty of team leaders for the upcoming season. Senior Ray Jones, 152 pounds, and 189-pound junior Stephen Patz are two wrestlers that lead by example.
For the girls, Requa described junior Hoonah transfer Melissa Fisher as someone who is "mean, ornery and doesn't back down from anybody," something he likes to see in his wrestlers.
"I watched her beating up on Stephen (Patz) the other day - my 189-pounder," Requa said with a grin. "She just doesn't care. She competed at the state tournament last year for Hoonah, and she can definitely be a state placer for us."
Requa said he likes the depth he has throughout the roster. Grappling at 119 pounds will be sophomores Ryan Dilley, Liana Tseu and Nicole Nicholeson. Sophomore Shayla Reeves will wrestle at 125 pounds, sophomore Shawn Taylor at 130 pounds, and freshman Zach McCracken at 140 pounds. Another freshman, Josh Morehouse, will wrestle at 145 pounds.
At 160 pounds is junior David Steininger and sophomore Jackson Pavitt, and rounding the roster out at 215 pounds is sophomore Greg Gilchrist and senior Cole Bossio.
Requa also said he has assembled a group of assistant coaches he feels will be instumental in the team's success. Joining Requa and assistant coach Mike Thiele are volunteer coaches Gary Reid, Josh Houston, Paul Davis, Brian Thatcher and Alberto Cabrera, as well as former Falcons wrestler Brian Koenig and former Hoonah wrestler Cody Anderson.
Thunder Mountain is in Ketchikan this weekend, beginning with a dual meet against the Kings today.
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