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Sheffield wrestlers open today at General McLane quad meet

Submitted Photo Sheffield’s 2020 wrestling team will be made up of freshman Chase Kyler, sophomore Collin Brown, sophomore A.J. Barnes, sophomore Drew Morgan, freshman Trenton Mead, junior Cooper Traister, senior Gideon Dickson, junior Jermaine Wallace, junior Landon Mead, senior Jake Davidson, senior Ethan Finch, junior Anthony Atkins, junior Cyrus Sears, sophomore Owen Cable, sophomore Issac Sheldon and junior Danah Campbell.

It may have taken some time to get here, but the start of Sheffield’s varsity wrestling season is finally upon us, and 11th-year head coach Jack Rice couldn’t be more excited to get things rolling for the Wolverines.

“We’re short-timed on getting back in shape. Hopefully the boys did some running during this break,” Rice joked. “We’re getting right back into it. This is one of the biggest years we’ve had with Sheffield wrestlers.”

The Wolverines will again compete in the Allegheny Mountain League, and despite some reorganization and schedule changes, Rice expects his kids to be prepared, especially when the postseason approaches.

“Our schedule is probably the toughest we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Rice said. “Wins and losses, who knows how it’s going to pan out, but I know from a competitive standpoint with postseason the boys are going to be ready.”

One group that Rice hasn’t had a lot of time to fine tune as a result of the pause in winter sports due to COVID-19 is his younger classes.

Although they lost a month, Rice is confident that the sophomores and freshmen will be ready to step into the spotlight.

“We have a lot of young kids coming up and a lot of kids that are coming into big roles and they will have their years this year and next year,” Rice explained. “You’re going to see a lot of highlights from them.”

Two freshmen who have caught Rice’s eye early on this year are Trenton Mead and Chase Kyler. Mead will be wrestling in at a middle weight class which tends to be one of the tougher spots for younger wrestlers, but Rice pointed to Mead’s focus on offseason workouts as helping him to prepare for the next step. Rice also applauded Kyler’s work ethic which he attributes to his mirroring of Sheffield senior and nationally ranked (11) Ethan Finch.

“I think you’re going to see him turn some heads,” Rice said. “He’s going to be in a light-weight class this year and he can do some things. He stays after 15-20 minutes every day to work out. He just wants to win. He’s excited to win. He’s excited to learn. Ethan is a legend to him. He really implements Ethan’s work style. That’s who I know he looks up to.”

Sophomores A.J. Barnes and Collin Brown were both able to earn 17 wins last season as freshmen and Rice refers to the pair as the two hardest practice partners in the room. Rice also highlighted juniors Landon Mead and Cooper Traister as two more offseason workers ready to make an impact.

“They’re going to turn some heads this year,” Rice said. “Landon put on a ton of muscle. He’ll be my 170 pounder. Cooper really dedicated himself, so I expect big things out of him. You’re talking 15 to 16 match winners.”

The clear headline-grabber coming into this season is undoubtedly Finch. As mentioned above, he is ranked 11th in the nation, is trying to get to 100 wins, and is preparing to make a state title run. All of those personal accomplishments aside, Rice detailed how important Ethan is to the team as a leader and role model.

“To be honest, that is actually where he’s excelled the most is his leadership,” Rice said. “That’s where I think he’s developed as a person and a wrestler. You’re younger, you’re focused on the individual, but this year I really see him taking a stance as leading the team and really setting an example with leading the young kids.

Through the summer offseason wrestling nationally ranked, tough competition, traveling states away on the weekends, has resulted in Finch knowing what it takes.

“He’s really set the stage for himself,” said Rice. “That’s kind of been his goal since day one is to be a state champion. He’s really focused and that’s another piece he brings. The team sees that and he sets an example just outright on that. He wrestled three days a week during the offseason, lifted every day, and was focused coming in.”

Another leader for the Wolverines during both the offseason and season is assistant coach Tom Holden, who Rice dubbed the backbone of Sheffield wrestling.

“He is on these guys like crazy,” said Rice. “He’d buy a wrestling room just so they had a room to wrestle. He is very motivated. It’s one of those love-hate relationships because he drives them crazy but at the same time they know they need him.”

Sheffield, in years past, has had a co-op with Abraxas. However, due to the pandemic, that coop was suspended. Being a forward thinker, Rice went through the steps early on to have a new co-op formed with Taylor Diversions Programs. However, to his delight and due to the hard work by Holden, Rice is not leaning on a co-op to have a full team this year.

“We pretty much fill a team with just what we have right now,” Rice explained. “That’s huge. This is my 11th year and that’s the first time that’s happened, to not have to worry about spots with just my team.”

The well-led and youth-backed Wolverines will start their season at 10 today, competing at the General McLane Quad Meet.

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