By JESS HUFFMAN
After losing five seniors to graduation, the Greencastle varsity wrestling team is looking to build on last year's experience.
Leading the Tiger Cubs this season, Greencastle returns seniors Kurt Cantonwine and Chase Dunigan. Cantonwine will wrestle in the 125-pound weight class, while Dunigan will handle duties in the 275-pound division.
In particular, Greencastle Coach Russ Hesler expects big things out of Dunigan this season.
"There's not too many people that are going to be able to handle that guy. He's a man child," Hesler said. "I'm not offering any threats, but I'd like to see the guy that's going to be able to handle him."
Other returning starters this year include juniors Chad Nichols and Chris Pingleton, who both advanced to semistate competition last season. Nichols will be wrestling in the 135-pound weight class, while Pingleton will represent the Tiger Cubs in the 152-pound division.
Greencastle will have to do without the services of Jeremy Butler, Josh Myers, Zach Hesler, Joe Bumgardner and Craig Harman this season. Hesler had nothing but praise for the departed seniors, who he said were solid leaders and contributors. In particular, Myers advanced to the state last year in the 189-pound division.
"Those kids were all good kids and loved the sport of wrestling," Hesler said. "They were all pretty good."
Other starters this year include freshmen Derick Grimes, Mike Mahoney, Kyle Buchanan and Andy Harrison. Sophomores Ed Kidwell and Michael Rumley will also be competing for starting roles, while juniors Robert Bittles, Ty Buchanan, Kyle Sheldon look to round out the Tiger Cubs' varsity lineup. Freshmen Nate Kelly and Jacob Wright will also be competing for time in their first year wrestling, Hesler said.
"Some of these guys have not even seen a match," he said. "So the learning curve will be straight up the board."
Due to injury, the Tiger Cubs still have vacancies in the 130-pound, 140-pound and 189-pound divisions. Sophomore Jeremy Neeley and freshmen Phil Kass and Josh Guffey are all sidelined this season.
Because of departed seniors and injuries, the Tiger Cubs may be short on numbers to start the season. However, Hesler is recruiting more people to start the team, and may have a full squad by midseason.
As for work ethic, Hesler said the Tiger Cubs are looking strong. Even former athletes have stopped by and noticed the team's tenacity, Hesler said.
"Charlie Pingleton stopped by and said, 'Man coach, you're way ahead of the game from where we were at this point and time,"' Hesler said.
Greencastle's first match is tonight at Mooresville at 5:30 p.m. Although the Tiger Cubs have a long season ahead, Hesler said everything starts counting today.
"Their record starts now," he said. "Come February, whatever their record ends up is going to be starting today."