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PREP WRESTLING: Teams confused over State Duals (01/25)

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By Josh Claywell

Longtime Central Hardin coach Russ Pike has a bone to pick with the Kentucky Wrestling Coaches’ Association.

Pike isn’t exactly pleased with how the organization is handling the State Duals this season. In past years, qualifying teams would know which pool they would be placed in for the prestigious event.

That’s not the case this season. Along with dividing into two divisions, small school and big school, coaches will not know which teams they will be placed with until the draw meeting is held before action gets started at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Louisville Fern Creek on four mats in each gym.

“We know who’s going to be there, but as far as who we’re going to be matched up against, we have no clue,” Pike said Thursday. “If we don’t know who we’re going against in pool play, it does kind of limit what we can do to plan and to really strategize. We’re still going to practice like we always do, but as a coach it’s nice to know who you’re going to be facing.

“I wish they would have let us know the pools so we could anticipate what we’re looking at when we get up there,” he added. “That’s one of the unforeseen circumstances they had when they split it up into small school and big school divisions. They also want to seed it as well, but we can’t do that till we get there.”

Other big-school teams are Anderson County, Bullitt East, Campbell County, Lexington Henry Clay, Oldham County, Owensboro Apollo, Simon Kenton, Woodford County and Louisville schools Southern, St. Xavier and Trinity.

Central Hardin senior Wyatt Overman is optimistic the Bruins, who won last weekend’s North Hardin Invitational Tournament, can finish in the top five.

“We think we have a pretty good shot,” he said. “We expect a really tough day, but our mindset is right. If we can keep our heads in it, we should do well.”

Meade County qualified but had to drop out because most of its lineup has been battling sickness this week. Apollo, which finished third behind the Green Wave and Central Hardin in the Sectional Duals, will take Meade County’s place.

Small-school teams are Ashland Blazer, Covington Scott, Fort Campbell, Franklin County, Johnson Central, LaRue County, McCreary Central, Union County, Walton-Verona, Wayne County and Louisville squads Central and Moore.

LaRue County is going for a state record-tying sixth title. The Hawks won it in 1999, 2001, ’06, ’07 and ’11.

“To get No. 6 this year is going to take a lot,” Hawks senior Caleb Canter said. “We’re going to have to have everyone firing on all cylinders. We’re going to have a lot of competition there, especially Union County. They’re looking solid. For us to have a chance to compete with them and beat them, we need everyone to show up and wrestle the best they can.”

Veteran coach Gary Canter said getting title No. 6 might be a long shot for the Hawks.

“In years past, I would play some bumps. But we don’t have that this year,” the coach said. “We don’t have the weight classes nor the numbers to offset that. This year, we better perform when we hit the mat and we better have some upsets along the way, or we will not be able to compete for the title. It’s going to take a lot of luck and a lot of wins where we’re the underdog.”

FORT KNOX INVITATIONAL. Longtime Fort Knox coach Jarvis Cullen has long preferred to offer teams a weight-class tournament as opposed to duals.

While he knows how good a duals tournament can be for a team, Cullen believes a seeded individual tournament modeled after the region and state tournaments could be more beneficial to wrestlers.

“I think it gives the kids more of a reason to work harder,” Cullen said. “Dual tournaments do guarantee wrestlers more mat time, but an individual tournament makes them work harder. Each one of those kids wants to stand on the medal podium and receive a medal. That’s an incentive to make them work harder.

“It will prepare them, especially the new wrestlers, for the region and state tournaments,” he added. “That way, they can gauge the competition they might be up against.”

Saturday’s invitational features 19 teams – Apollo (JV), Bullitt Central, Bullitt East, Christian County, John Hardin, Lexington Lafayette, Nelson County, North Hardin, North Oldham, Ohio County, Owensboro, Spencer County, Taylor County and Louisville schools DeSales, Doss, Holy Cross, Male and Western.

Cullen said the seeding process won’t take as long as some might think.

“If we seed the tournament before, we might have to re-seed it the morning of the tournament if coaches need to change things around,” he said. “It only takes a few minutes to get all that sorted out.”

Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com.