Belpre head wrestling coach Scott Adams had nine district qualifiers last year, but only one in then-freshman Gavin Stalnaker made it out of the district and on to the state tournament in Columbus.
So even though Adams had eight matmen qualify this year for a Division III district tournament at 4 p.m. today and 9 a.m. Saturday at Heath High School, he admits, "It's a tough district that we're in. Several state placers come out of our district every year. It's a job to get through it.
"Like I've told them, they have to be focused all weekend long. You got to be willing to wrestle six of the hardest minutes every match if you want the opportunity to get out."
The eight Golden Eagle grapplers in action today are now-sophomore Stalnaker (27-9) at 113 pounds, senior Zach Davis (21-21) at 120, junior Manney Tullius (36-5) at 138, senior Ethan Wiggers (32-11) at 145, sophomores Matthew Colvin (23-12) at 160 and Jake Hall (5-5) at 170, and seniors Jamie Barrett (31-10) at 182 and Hayden Lowe (18-13) at 220.
Adams said that "after looking at all the district brackets, I like where all of our guys are situated. I know we're not going to win every match, but I think we've got an opportunity to get a few kids to Columbus."
Although Stalnaker could return to the state, "he has a tough draw in the district, maybe the toughest draw of all the guys we have," said Adams.
"But Gavin's a solid wrestler and he's got a good attitude, so I think he can overcome it. He just has to wrestle well, because again at this level, nothing's given to you."
Tullius, a third straight district qualifier, "has a real good draw, so he has a pretty good chance," said Adams, while Barrett, a district qualifier for all four of his high school years, "I thought also has a good shot when I looked at his bracket," said Adams.
For Colvin, "it would be nice to get him some wins in the district under his belt," said Adams. "He's come on the latter part of this season. If he catches the right breaks - and then of course, he's got to make the breaks - he's got a good chance as well."
Adams added that his team's "conditioning is where I want it to be (at this point in the season) and we seem to be peaking at the right time. They wrestled well in the (TVC) conference tournament to get second there and then second in the sectional last week, qualifying more kids for the district than the winning team."
For Adams, "it'd be nice to go back to the Schottenstein Center (at Ohio State) again (next Thursday through Saturday), especially since four of our five seniors qualified for the district. So I'll have only four returning district qualifiers next year, while this year, I had six. Will any of them also be returning state qualifiers? I'm hoping."
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org