After three years of not having a wrestling program, the Waite Indians have picked up right where they left off.
Waite won the Toledo City League title, a culmination of an effort to rebuild a program that returned with a bang when Toledo Public Schools decided to re-institute the sport as a varsity program. It was disbanded following the 2009-10 school year.
The Indians, led by first-year coach Shane Kokensparger, dominated at the CL meet, accumulating 264 points, well ahead of Start, who finished with 196. Bowsher finished third (186) and Scott was fourth (121).
Waite had seven wrestlers finish in first place in their respective weight classes and three placed second.
Krys Young was the team’s first winner, taking the title at 113 pounds, followed by Tristin Snider (120), Jose Compos (126), Talmage Jones (132), Elias Moreno (138), James Johnson (145) and Josh Kendall (182). And Donte’ Nelson (152), Nick Jensen (160) and Roqueit Jackson (220) helped to pace the Indians with second-place finishes.
The kids performed well in the clutch, defeating second place Start in six of the seven matches in which they faced one another, a key factor in helping them win convincingly.
Needless to say, Kokensparger, a 1996 graduate of Springfield, was proud of his squad.
“Winning the City League was an emotional experience,” Kokensparger said. “I wanted these kids to know what it feels like to be a league champion. These young men and women worked too hard all season not to win it. We are a family and that is one reason we won. We are close, we love each other and we trust each other.”
But Kokensparger is just as proud of his kids for taking care of things in the classroom.
“Being CL Champions was our second goal of the year,” he said. “Our first was raising our team’s GPA and we accomplished both. I could not be more proud of all the work (the wrestlers) put in this year in the classroom and on the mat.”
Kokensparger also credits the community with showing support for the wrestlers during the season.
“The support shown by the students, staff members and community was second to none,” he said, singling out Principal Dave Yenrick, a Waite alumnus, and Brian Murphy for their support.
Led by Young, the top five Indians did the most damage. Young is currently 32-2, followed by Kendall (27-6), Jones (29-9), Johnson (27-11) and Moreno (26-12).
Waite went 26-7 in dual meet action this season, won the Clyde Tournament title, finished third at the Napoleon Gold Medal Duals and was fifth at the Hopewell-Loudon Duals Tournament. Young was the MVP of the Hopewell-Loudon and the Trojan Duals, an event that saw that Indians place ninth out of 21 teams.
“We wrestled in all varsity tournaments,” Kokensparger said. “Some people felt that the CL schools should wrestle a JV schedule to build confidence, but I believe that prepares (the wrestlers) for a false sense of what wrestling is.”
Kokensparger says what stood out about this group was its camaraderie. He credits the Indians’ four captains, Compos, Johnson, Jensen and Brandon Wagner, with providing leadership.
“The captains each play a different role,” Kokensparger said, “and they’ve all worked hard to get us to (this point in the season).”
Waite can now turn its focus toward the Division I sectionals at Clay on Feb. 15. The ultimate goal is to get some wrestlers out to Cleveland for districts.
“I believe if the kids wrestle hard and with intensity we have a chance to get seven out,” Kokensparger said. “We aren't established enough yet. We still make little mistakes that can cause us a match at this level. I truly believe that we will advance seven to Cleveland.”
Waite now having wrestling back, they won’t have to worry about losing those athletes to other schools. Kokensparger said that, combined with a solid junior high program, could take the Indians back to the days when they won four CL titles in the 2000s. That was when the CL had over 10 teams, including Clay, Whitmer, and three Catholic schools.
“Keeping wrestling at Waite will help keep our kids home,” Kokensparger said. “My goal is to progress over the next three years and grow the sport to where it was when Waite was dominating in the early 2000s.”