Waite’s wrestlers could have been excused if they showed up at the season-opening Findlay Duals on Nov. 30 with shaky knees and sweaty palms.
After all, the Indians hadn’t even fielded a wrestling team in three years, after Toledo Public Schools shut down wrestling programs at all six of its public schools and eliminated freshman sports because of a lack of funding.
The Indians, who drew No. 1 seed Olmsted Falls in the first round at Findlay, finished ninth at the 21-team event. Coach Shane Kokensparger said his wrestlers competed “very well.”
“I was very happy with way the kids wrestled,” Kokensparger said. “We won a couple matches and the kids wrestled very hard and wrestled smart. We lost to Olmsted Falls and turned around and wrestled better against Bellevue and lost a close dual. We then wrestled Elmwood, Fostoria and Bluffton and beat them all.”
The Indians squared off against City League rival Start on Dec. 5 and won 11 of 14 matches en route to a 66-18 victory over the host Spartans.
“Our kids wrestled with more intensity and enthusiasm than I’ve seen in the past,” Kokensparger said. “Their goal right now is to be City League champs. The way we are wrestling and performing in the practice room, I see nothing less than City League champs.”
Waite placed sixth out of 18 teams on Dec. 7 at the Hopewell-Loudon Duals, splitting four team matches. The Indians lost to Hopewell-Loudon and Fremont Ross, and beat Bishop Fenwick and Shelby.
“The kids are just wrestling smarter,” Kokensparger said. “They want to get better and they have a goal in mind and they’re not going to settle with anything less. I have a great core of kids, some awesome individuals and a great coaching staff.
Each one of us coaches puts in more time than required, but to build a program this is what has to be done.”
The Indians hosted their first match on Dec. 10 with Bryan, Findlay and Hopewell-Loudon. Waite beat Bryan (48-32) and Findlay (66-15) and did not wrestle Hopewell-Loudon.
Waite then hosted Rogers on Dec. 12 and won 12 of 14 matches in a 72-12 thrashing. The Indians will compete on Saturday at the 21-team Clyde Invitational.
“This is our first time in a bracket tournament and I’m looking for my kids to go out and show improvement,” Kokensparger said. “Every time they wrestle they’re just looking for improvement, good sportsmanship, good energy and respect of the sport.”
The Indians’ standout so far has been junior Krys Young at 113 pounds. Young is 11-1 with 11 pins and won the Findlay Duals and was named most valuable wrestler at the Hopewell-Loudon Duals. His only loss (4-3) came against a returning state qualifier from Fremont Ross.
“Krys is just naturally gifted,” Kokensparger said. “His practice level is intense. I look for him to make the state meet. He is cutting down to 106 after Christmas break; 113 (pounds) at our district is very tough. He is very strong for 113 and has a solid base and solid fundamentals. He has more desire to win on the mat than his opponent. I expected good things from him.”
Kokensparger is also impressed with the performances of junior 145-pounder James Johnson and senior 138-pounder Talmage Jones. Johnson is 7-4 and Jones is 5-6.
“I like James’ intensity,” the coach said. “He’s only wrestled for three months his entire life and he is coming on quick. He understands what it takes to win. His desire in the practice room supersedes anyone we have. His willingness to want to be a leader, to get better and to push his teammates, he has impressed me the most. My goal for him is to get to the district level.”
Jones has come on strong after losing four of his first five matches. His last four wins have all come by pin.
“He’s finally understanding how to think the moves before he hits them,” Kokensparger said. “He’s now understanding he has to wrestle the match in his head before his opponent does. I think he’s turned the corner.”
Kokensparger added that junior Jose Compos, a transfer from Central Catholic who has won two of his three matches at 126, is helping to make his teammates better.
“I expect to see leadership from him,” Kokensparger said. “He is what helps Krys Young become a better wrestler, and Krys will help Jose become a better wrestler. He understands the sport and he has the ability to help the kids learn as well as push them. He’s not the strongest kid or the fastest kid, but he has solid technique.”
Waite wrestlers — left to right in yellow: Eduardo Jackson, Roqueit Jackson, Richard Wise, Jose Compos, Talmage Jones, Robert Alexander, Jeffery Harwick, Krys Young, Johnny Wilson, Michael Gage, Donte' Nelson, James Johnson, Jacob Cloyne. Coaches in back: assistant coaches Chad Paradas and Justin McCarroll. Coaches in front: head coach Shane Kokensparger and assistant coach Keary Sarbia.