Woodmore has eight freshmen on its varsity squad, and the Wildcats have several wrestlers who might bounce between two different weight classes early in the season, but coach Dane Bonnigson still has an ace wrestler in senior 113-pounder Evan Ulinski.
Last year Ulinski became Woodmore’s fourth all-time state runner-up when he took second at 106 pounds at the Division III state tournament in Columbus. Ulinski, who was 49-4 a year ago after losing the state title match in overtime, may also wrestle at 120 this season.
“Obviously my expectation is I want to get a healthy, successful season out of him,” Bonnigson said. “I’m sure he set his goals for the top this season. You would think he wants to get there this year and win it. He’s working very hard every day and he’s a great kid to have on the team. He is a good leader and he keeps everyone else focused and heading in the right direction.”
Concerning those eight freshmen, Bonnigson said, “It’s a pretty solid class. I’m excited about them. They’re going to be green, but they’re some talented kids. I’m hoping they step in and contribute right away.”
The Northern Buckeye Conference coaches picked Woodmore to finish second behind Genoa in the conference title race this season.
“Genoa’s got a tough team,” Bonnigson said. “I think the rest of the league, everybody’s got talent on their team this year. It’s going to be up for grabs. I’m flattered that they picked us second, but that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t wrestle up to their expectations. I expect a lot of these guys will. It should be an exciting year in the league.”
Bonnigson lists several individuals as potential starters in the bulk of the weight classes. He said he will know more after the Wildcats open the season Saturday at the Bellevue Invitational.
“That’s not a bad problem to have, having pretty competent wrestlers at most positions,” the coach said. “I’m excited to now know for sure. They will have some competitive wrestle-offs, and that translates into some wins.”
Junior Thomas Schnitker, the NBC champ at 113 last year and a returning district qualifier, could compete at 106, 113 or 120 this season. Freshman Jacob Amstutz could also start at 106.
“Thomas is a hard-nosed kid, a hard worker,” Bonnigson said. “He’s very persistent, just constantly going after things and he never gives up. That pays off for him.”
Freshmen Brandon Cowell and Conor Emch are competing for a starting nod at 120, while Cowell, Emch, junior Josh Cowell or sophomore Sean Small will compete for the spot at 126.
Freshman Skyler Brown will be at 132, followed by either junior Grant Volschow or freshman Mason Beachler at 138. Beachler could also start at 145, according to Bonnigson. Tony Rozzi, a senior returning district qualifier who won 28 matches last year, will start at 152.
“He really stepped up his game last year,” Bonnigson said, “and he looks even better this year.”
Junior Seth Gaghen and freshman Ben Wilt are penciled in to compete at 160 pounds.
“Seth won 30 matches for us last year and had a solid showing at the district tournament,” Bonnigson said. “He grew a ton this year. He’s much bigger than he was last year. He’s looking solid.”
Freshman Ben Wilt and junior Joe Flores will wrestle at 170 and 182 pounds, respectively, while senior Spencer Linke is at 195. Linke was an NBC runner-up at 195 last year and is a four-year starter.
“He is another real tough kid,” Bonnigson said. “He always has a positive attitude. He’s been with us as a starter for four years now, so he should hopefully have a good season as well.”
Henry Flores, a senior, is at 220 and junior Rito Alvear is wrestling at heavyweight.
“I have seen a lot of positive things, but I haven’s seen a lot of these kids at the varsity level, the freshmen and people who didn’t wrestle last year,” Bonnigson said. “I’m exicted to see them against competition this weekend and where they’re at. I’m optimistic at this point.”