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PREP WRESTLING: Area wrestlers prep for State (02/19)

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By Josh Claywell

By JOSH CLAYWELL jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com

FRANKFORT — Since finishing 49th at the KHSAA State Wrestling Championships in 2005, the John Hardin Bulldogs have improved 14 spots in the standings each year.

And after finishing seventh last season, the sixth-ranked Bulldogs will look to finish in the top 10 again as the three-day tournament kicks off today at the Frankfort Civic Center.

“If we could finish inside the top 10 again, it would give us another boost of confidence being 8 years old,” veteran John Hardin coach Adam Lindsey said Wednesday as the Bulldogs held their final practice before leaving for State. “Our goal has been to try to keep cutting our numbers in half, and we have done it. But our goal again will be to finish inside the top 10 and place as many kids up on that podium as we can.”

John Hardin is predicted by kentuckywrestling.com to finish seventh behind No. 1 Louisville Trinity, No. 2 Union Ryle, No. 3 Campbell County, defending champion and No. 4 Union County, Region 2 rival and No. 5 LaRue County and No. 7 Johnson Central.

And if LaRue County does finish higher than John Hardin, Lindsey will still be pleased with the outcome.

“LaRue’s no shab, and maybe our region could be down just a hair, but I’m under the impression that we have a very good tournament team,” Lindsey said. “If our kids come out and do what we’re capable of doing on an average day, we’re going to compete into Saturday with a lot of these kids.”

Longtime LaRue County coach Gary Canter feels it will come down to Trinity and Ryle for the overall championship.

“Everyone thinks, just looking at draws, Ryle has the best draws,” he said. “The best teams, in my opinion, are going to be Ryle and Trinity. Union County will still be up there and Campbell County is a strong team, too. There are several teams that are going to have opportunities.”

Entering the season, Canter felt this year would be a rebuilding year for his Hawks.

But they finished second to John Hardin at the region tournament and qualified 10 wrestlers for State.

“I think it’s kind of one of those times where we’re so young that it’s going to be a good learning experience for several of our kids,” Canter said. “We have several kids that will be representing us for the first time and we’ll have a few seniors that will have a last chance to make their mark.”

The young Hawks do have some tough first-round draws, but Canter feels that will only help them in the future.

“Most of my young kids got absolutely horrendous draws. Caleb (Canter), for example, goes in as a No. 4 and pulls out the top seed in (Lexington Henry Clay senior) Matt Zarth, who’s the two-time defending state champion,” Canter said. “We’ve got some tough draws, but at the same time, getting into the state tournament and getting a feel for it whets their appetites for it. Next year, hopefully they won’t go in there with all the nervousness the state tournament causes. It’s a great learning opportunity.

“I think it’ll pay dividends down the road,” Canter added. “You just get better each time you get to the state tournament because you lose that nervousness that is associated with it. There’s no way to experience it from the stands. I think you have to be out there on the mat to experience it. I think it really helped my kids in the past, like Pat Banks, who qualified young and kept qualifying in their latter years.”

Gates open at 8:30 this morning for wrestlers and coaches. Following a coaches’ meeting at 10:30, weigh-ins will be held at 11. Gates open for fans at 11:30 and opening ceremonies start at noon. The first and second rounds, up to bout 224, will take place from 12:30-8 p.m.

Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. Friday with the remainder of the second round championship bracket, including weight classes 145-285. The first two rounds of the consolation bracket will be held immediately following the conclusion of the championship bracket’s second round, with the third round of each bracket to take place after that.

On Saturday, the event will start at 10 a.m. and will complete all consolation rounds and the semifinals of the championship bracket.

Finals are slated to begin at 7 Saturday night.

Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752