(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldog wrestling team will try to work their way off the mat this season when they try to pull a reversal off their 2006-07 season.
After finishing the season with a low number of participants, Sikeston's new head coach, Kent Gibbs, will fill out his roster with a lot of young talent.
"It has been a problem trying to fill out a roster," said Gibbs. "Last year we finished with about four or five kids but numbers are up. They aren't where they need to be, but we are gonna have somewhere between 15-20 kids this year.
"The majority of our team will be freshmen and sophomores but we do have some young guys that have had some experience," Gibbs added.
Some of these young prospects include sophomore Nick De La Rosa (119 pounds) and freshmen Jacob Murphy (112) who have both wrestled for a combination of 21 years.
However, with all the young potential the leadership role will lie heavily on the shoulders of the teams' only seniors Gavilan Bland (171) and Robert Madison (heavyweight). Both previous state qualifiers, Bland placed sixth in last years state tournament.
"Both Gavilan and Robert have been around and are former state competitors," said Gibbs. "They know we expect big things from them and we hope they will continue to step up and become leaders of the team both in practice and in the wrestling room. So far they have certainly done that."
With these team leaders suited up, Gibbs is hoping some of his younger wrestlers will show improvement week in and week out so they can have a chance to strap up for the varsity lineup. It won't happen immediately though as the rest of the team combines for only six years of wrestling experience. It will take hard work and dedication but Gibbs believes his team is up for the challenge.
"Filling out a lineup might be tough for the fact that we might not have the right number of kids in the right weight divisions," said Gibbs. "However, we plan on getting our guys better by letting them compete on both the junior varsity and varsity level."
Coach Gibbs implied that the JV matches will be great to improve basic fundamentals and confidence while the varsity matches will be for gaining experience.
"I think if you want to make them better they need to wrestle the best competition they can get so we're gonna let them wrestle in varsity competition," Gibbs added.
Some of the other wrestlers vying for a spot in the starting lineup will include juniors Zachary Bryan (125), Justin Hyde (215), and Damardrae Steward (215). Ben Burton (171), Kendall Morris (heavyweight), and Amos Helms (152), who has also had 10 years of experience, are sophomores who will see mat time. Freshmen will include Elizabeth Bolen (130), Taylor Causey (160), Sam Erwin (140), Zach Moore (125), Damian Thurman (130), and Dustin Wells (125).
"We may end up behind the eight ball a little bit with the numbers we've got compared to some of the other more established programs in the area," said Gibbs. "But the main thing is we've just got to continue to improve. If your a kid that is right there close to being a state wrestler then we want you to work hard enough to make it to state and place.
"We are looking forward to the season and you can tell our kids are too," Gibbs added. "They are making an attempt to work at it and I think we will be represented well as far as the number of kids we have this season."
The Bulldogs look to open up their season Nov. 27 when they travel to take on the Farmington Knights. Opening match is set for 6:30 p.m.