Free State High wrestling coach Darrell Andrew has been looking forward to the 2001-02 season since he walked off the Kansas Coliseum mat following the Class 6A state meet in February.
The Firebirds return nine state qualifiers Matt Somers, Adam Berg, Anthony White, Kyle Case, Nick McGovern, Kyle Frank, Justin Stevens, Ian Brk and Grant Steinbach. Somers (112 pounds), McGovern (160), Justin Stevens (189), Brk (215) and Steinbach (275) all enter the season ranked in the top six of their respective weight classes.
"We've got a real solid lineup all the way through," said Andrew, the Firebirds' fifth-year coach whose squad will open today at Effingham. "This should be lots of fun. The kids are working hard. The numbers are up. Hopefully, this is the season we've been looking for."
Andrew's projected lineup for today is Somers (119), Berg (125), Case (130), Josh Sanderson (135), Anthony White (140), Brenton Bartz (145), Brett Shoffner (152), McGovern (160), Frank (171), Stevens (189), Brk (215) and Steinbach (275).
Brk, state runner-up at 215 last season and ranked No. 2 behind defending state champion Josh Carroll at that weight class this winter, recently signed to wrestle at Stanford.
"Ian has a lot of confidence," Andrew said of the senior standout. "At the same time, he realizes there's more pressure because people will be watching him. He's always involved in wrestling clubs and wrestled at the national level. He's got the experience to put himself in situations where he has learned to be successful.
"He came into the season at 243 pounds and he'll be a big 215-pounder. He's put on a lot of strength."
Stevens, a senior, placed fifth at state at 189 pounds. He is ranked No. 3 this season.
"Justin's looking really good," Andrew said. "This year he's really focused. He realizes he's a senior and has nothing to lose. You'll see Justin Stevens go for it all this year."
Brk, Stevens and White are three-year letter-winners and three-time state qualifiers. The three wrestlers serve as team captains.
LHS to open at SM East
Lawrence High's wrestlers will open today at a dual tournament at Shawnee Mission East.
"I really like the format," fourth-year LHS coach Jeff Tummons said. "We're guaranteed five duals and you get to do a lot of evaluating. And we need that because we're real low number-wise and have a lot of inexperienced guys."
Tummons said LHS would have three weights open for sure and possibly five vacant slots today.
Lawrence's projected lineup is Shane Bartlett (112), Joey Kelly (119 or 125), Chris Hultine (140), Jeremaih Smith (145), Aaron Madill (160), Wesley Cook (171), Clayton Kellerman (189), Ryan Rayzor (215) and Kenny Poeverlein II (275).
Hultine, Madill and Poeverlein are returning state qualifiers.
"There are guys coming back with experience and they know the system better than anybody," Tummons said.
Rayzor, who wrestled as a sophomore at LHS before transferring to Olathe South for his junior year, also has varsity experience.
"He's got a lot of mat time," Tummons said.