Moody: squad should be in running for conference crown
By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s wrestling team will open its season at home today (Thursday) with a 5 p.m. tri-match against Robbinsville and Rabun Gap, Georgia.
“We are excited about our team this year,” Coach Tony Moody said. “We feel like we are going to be in the running for a conference championship. That’s our goal.”
There were 15 wrestlers at practice since the first day, and the number was up to 22 by the end of last week as cross country and soccer ended. Several football players are expected at practice this week after their season concluded Friday.
“It’s always a struggle at the beginning of the season with kids trickling in from different sports,” Moody said. “Not having the football guys actually helps as we can focus on the beginners and give more attention to them to try and get them up to speed. I am very excited as we are adding several key football players to the team.”
That group includes seniors Danner Hill (220) and Derrick Farmer (170), who both wrestled in middle school, as well as seniors Oscar Coleman (195) and Jacob Woody (heavyweight) and juniors Dustin Stephens (152) and Forrest Ward (182).
“None of these guys have wrestled (in high school), but having these guys means all four starting linebackers and safety will be on the team,” Moody said. “Good, solid tacklers make pretty good wrestlers usually.”
The Mustangs went 15-14 last year and were third in the Mountain Six Conference at 3-2. They were also third in the league tournament.
Moody said the conference regular season championship will likely be decided Dec. 18 when SM travels to Pisgah.
“It will be an uphill battle, as they return four wrestlers that went to state, with a returning state champion and two fourth-place finishers,” the coach said. “Brevard will definitely be in the mix as well.”
Heading the returnees is senior Will Frady, who went 40-2 last season. He lost 3-2 in the state 2-A championship match at 195 pounds.
“He is currently the top 195-pounder in the state in all classifications,” Moody said. “He will be heavily favored to repeat his finals appearance and win state.”
Senior Hunter Lassiter is ranked ninth at 126 pounds. He suffered a broken hand last season but returned to finish second in the conference tournament.
“He has a great opportunity to qualify for state and do very well there,” Moody said.
Sophomore Sam Hudson is expected to wrestle at 120 pounds this year. Last season he won the conference championship at 113 and joined Frady as all-conference wrestlers.
“Sam and Hunter barely missed the state tournament,” Moody said. “We feel like both of them will make it this year.”
Other returnees and the weight class they are likely to wrestle at include seniors Isaac Gunter (132), Tyler Watterson (138), Ki French (152), Damon Figueroa (160), Danner Hill (220) and Ethan Grasty (heavyweight); juniors Mandon Olvera (126), Joel Francis (132), Elijah Rodriguez (145) and Kobe Coggins (182); and sophomores Mitchell Russotti (132) and Brendan Millsaps (145).
Others joining the team include juniors Nathan Cook (160) and Tyler Ball (220); sophomores Jose Ramos (113), Camden Myers (160) and Eli Grasty (heavyweight); and freshmen Juan Guerrero (106), Oscar Munoz (106), Hayden Hooper (106), Blake Stevens (120), Alex Rodriguez (132), David Richmond (145), Jadon Cole (160), Ryder Huffman (170) and Eli Hamilton (182).
Tony Quinn and Colby Reddin return as assistant coaches. They are joined by Heath Stewart, a former Franklin assistant, and Tom Davis, a retiree from Minnesota. Last year’s captains, Gabe Rodriguez and Seth Ledford, are also helping.
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.