By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s wrestling team will open practice at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct 30, in the wrestling room of the gym.
Coach Tony Moody said a preseason poll has the team ranked 19th in 2-A.
Senior Will Frady, who finished second in last year’s State 2-A Tournament, is the top ranked wrestler in all classifications at 195 pounds, according to Moody.
“He is heavily favored to win the state championship,” the coach said. “He was conference champ and regional champ, and fell just shy of the state championship last year in the finals.”
Senior Hunter Lassiter was injured early in his junior season and missed most of the year. He returned in time for the conference tournament, where he finished second. He was fifth at regionals and just missed advancing to state. He is ranked ninth in 2-A in the 126-pound weight class.
“I feel pretty confident Hunter will make a strong showing in the regionals and state tournament,” Moody said.
Sophomore Sam Hudson was a surprise as a freshman. He won the Mountain Six Conference Tournament at 113 pounds and placed fifth at regionals.
“He will have a good shot at making the state tournament as well,” Moody said.
Other senior starters returning are Isaac Gunter, Ki French, Damon Figueroa and Ethan Grasty.
“All four had pretty good seasons, and we will lean on them pretty heavily to help us secure a conference championship,” Moody said.
He said Kobe Coggins is are lone returning junior starter with Mandon Olvera, Joel Francis, Elijah Rodriguez and Cole James “all in the mix to make for some good matchups in wrestle offs.”
He expects senior Danner Hill and junior Dustin Stephens to join the team after football season ends.
“The work they have put in in the weight room is going to really help them on the mat, and I feel like they will both probably compete and earn a starting spot,” Moody said. “The kids who are returning are going to have to work to retain their starting spots this year.”
The season will start with a tri-match at home Nov. 21 against Robbinsville and Rabun Gap, Georgia.
Moody said the team goal is to win the conference championship.
“We will have our work cut out to overtake Pisgah though, as they are ranked fifth in 2-A and return four wrestlers who made the state tournament,” the coach said. “Individually, we would really like to qualify at least four to the state tournament. It will be tough, as our region is the toughest in the state, but I think we can do it with the guys we have in the mat room. I’m looking forward to a great season.”
The schedule is as follows:
Nov. 21 – Robbinsville and Rabun Gap; 23 – at Swain Tournament; 26 – at Andrews; 27 – North Knight Invitational at North Henderson.
Dec. 2 – Rabun Gap and Asheville at Rabun Gap; 7 – NEO Tournament at Tuscola; 12 – Swain and Andrews at Swain; 13-14 – Falcon Frenzy Invitational at West Henderson; 18 – Swain and Pisgah at Pisgah; 20 – Rabun Gap, Owen, and Madison in Smoky Mountain Quad; 28 – at Bunker Hill Duals.
Jan. 4 – at Enka Duals; 11 – Milltown Classic at Pisgah; 12 – East Henderson, Patton and Asheville School at Asheville School; 16 – at Franklin; 18 – James Orr Invitational at Robbinsville; 21 – Brevard; 24 – MSC Tournament at Brevard.