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Unlike the motto in the popular Hunger Games series, veteran Fort Knox coach Jarvis Cullen doesn’t think the odds will be in his team’s favor this season.
With only two wrestlers back from last season, the Eagles are going to face a rebuilding year unlike any other in Cullen’s tenure.
Rebuilding years are nothing new at Fort Knox, but Cullen said none have been this drastic.
“Each year, Fort Knox sports teams go through a transformation of creating new teams,” Cullen said. “It makes it extremely difficult for coaches to build a team to be competitive with the surrounding schools, so replacing any of our most talented athletes is hard on us all.
“We have several weight classes open,” he added. “Far more than we’ve ever had, so … my expectations are for those on the team to go out and do their best and win as individuals since the odds are totally against us to win as a team.”
Freshmen Jordan Diamond and Alex Wendall are the only returning wrestlers, leaving plenty of holes to fill.
Gone are Rayvin Edayan, Andre Dean, Paul Michitsch, Derreck Ray and Chandler Brochers, all of whom transferred. According to preseason rankings released Aug. 20 on kentuckywrestling.com, Dean was ranked 10th at 138 pounds, while Edayan (106) and Michitsch (152) were ranked 17th.
Cullen said Diamond, who went to State as an alternate last season but didn’t place, is his most experienced wrestler. Diamond most likely will be at 130 pounds, while Wendall will start at 121.
“Jordan would be the most improved,” Cullen said.
Seven newcomers round out the roster.
Juniors Robert Cooley, Jesus Fuentes, Chris Gagne and Eugene Grace, sophomore Sebastian Sarcos and freshmen Guerillmo Roque-Smith and Malik Casby give Fort Knox nine wrestlers.
“With the number of wrestlers we currently have, the season is not predictable,” Cullen said. “We have way too many open weight classes and too many new wrestlers who have never competed.”
Gagne (132 pounds), Cooley (138), Fuentes (145), Sarcos (152) and Grace (160) have the middle weights locked down, while Casby will be at heavyweight.
With so much inexperience throughout his lineup, Cullen is bracing for what could be a very long season on post.
“Practice is going as it normally does,” Cullen said. “We train, condition and return the next day to pick up where we stopped the day before.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or email@example.com.