Fort Hays State University wrestling coach Chas Thompson said it might take some time before his young wrestlers are prepared to make the jump to collegiate wrestling.
With a squad of 23 underclassmen and only 10 upperclassmen — only five of which are returners — Thompson hopes the jump will come sooner rather than later.
“Our young kids are studs,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it takes a while to make that jump. Sometimes they can make that jump right away. It might be at Baker that they make the jump, and it might not be until regionals.”
The young Tigers got their first taste of collegiate action at the Black and Gold Scrimmage on Wednesday in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The teams were split in two — Gold and Black, and Gold won 23-13.
“For the young guys, it is good to get them out here and get them some experience wrestling,” Thompson said. “Also, I wanted to see them get down to the weight to wrestle. I wanted to see them in good shape.”
At 125 pounds, freshman Kenny Ornelas, gold, defeated freshman Rory Wilkinson 4-2 in overtime.
Junior Travis Kuhn, black, fell to junior Alden Isenberg in the 133-pound match 9-2. Kuhn was the starter at 133 pounds last season, but Isenberg said he has trained much harder this season than he did last season.
“I’ve been hanging around with (senior) Chance Rencountre,” Isenberg said. “He has been like a big brother to me. He put me on the right work ethics and has been pushing me hard in practice. I guess it showed.”
Senior Andre Harrison, an All-American last year but who will be ineligible during the fall semester, won the 141-pound match by a 14-3 major decision over freshman Trevor Oliver, black.
Redshirt freshman Mitchell Means, black, won the 149-pound match against freshman Sean Gaither 11-2, and 157-pound redshirt freshman Derek Koehn, gold, pinned sophomore Mark Roundtree.
Junior Travis Budke, gold, won the 165-pound match 4-1 over freshman Blake Nygren.
At 184 pounds, Rencountre defeated junior Aaron Berscheidt, black, by a 15-6 major decision.
Rencountre moved into the national rankings last season but then blew out his knee late in the season. He finished the season 21-8 and was one match away from qualifying for nationals despite the knee injury.
Rencountre said he has a lot to prove this season.
“This year I am looking forward to getting out there on two healthy knees,” Rencountre said. “People saw what I could do with one knee. We’ll see what I can do with two.”
Freshman Matt Atwood, black, defeated freshman Malcolm Norris 10-3 at the 197-pound weight class, and freshman C.J. Collins, black, won the 285-pound match by fall over Morris.
Thompson said with this team’s youth, having experienced wrestlers in the practice room like Rencountre and Harrison is a big benefit.
“We need some guys to step up besides the coaches to give them some role models,” Thompson said. “Obviously, my assistants and I work with them from time to time, but they need to see it from some upperclassmen. Andre and Chance do a great job of that.”
The Tigers will open their varsity season at the Baker University Dan Harris Open on Sunday. The tournament begins at 9 a.m.
Thompson said it would be a medium-sized tournament with 12- to 14-man brackets.
“It will just be something to knock the rust off all our guys pretty much,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, we will come away with a few champs, but you never know what is going to happen there.
“We want to walk away from the tournament healthy. That is the biggest thing.”