The Highlanders finished the season with 12 wrestlers last year and suffered through forfeits every week. This season, the group is at 31.
The bigger numbers won’t necessarily translate into dominating match results for the Hazen team, especially in the early season. Most of the athletes are somewhat new to the sport and will take some time to learn to be better wrestlers.
“There’s definitely a lot of raw athleticism here,” said Hazen coach David Black. “We just need to convert them into wrestlers.”
The team is already showing signs of commitment. Black said 20 to 25 members were working out and doing conditioning drills weeks before the season. It paid off. On the first day of official practice, Black said hardly any wrestlers were huffing and puffing – something that’s usually commonplace on the first day of practice.
Black attributes the increase in numbers to the team’s success last year and his decision to recruit the football team.
“A lot of kids wanted to bring Hazen back to the top,” Black said. “If we keep all of these kids I think we can do that.”
Despite the small numbers last season, Hazen still advanced all nine of its wrestlers that competed at the Seamount League meet on to the regional meet. Lucas Nestvold was the only Highlanders wrestler to win the league meet at his weight class (160).
Black also has the benefit of four other coaches this season. Last year it was him and one other part-time coach. That just adds to the excitement of the bigger numbers for Black.
“Having a full staff makes a gigantic difference,” Black said. “All these kids have got the skills and athleticism. This is going to be fun when it comes around to the league meet.”
Wrestlers to watch for this season include:
– Mason Seyboll, a senior transfer from Tahoma, is an experienced wrestler at 119 pounds.
– Jacob Nestvold advanced to regionals last season at 119 and will wrestle at 135 this season.
– Hayden Krall suffered injuries last season, but won most of his matches and made the finals at 135 at the league meet. He went on to regionals at 135 and will wrestle at 145 this season.
– Jordan Hjelmaa wrestled up at 171 last year to accommodate other wrestlers and still advanced to regionals.
– Anders Bostrom advanced to regionals at 130 last year and will wrestle at 140 this year.