Coach Joe Klein doesn’t mince his words when he looks at the gaping hole graduation has left in the White River High wrestling room.
“We lost a boat-load of seniors, nine starting seniors,” he said.
Gone from last year’s fifth-place 2A state team are fourth-place state medal winner Jeff Kisner, fifth-place state finishers Austin Shirey, Caden Pugmire and David Meagher, seventh-place state finishers Richard Geddes and Noah Geehan and state participant Tyler Kilcup.
“We’re young,” Klein said. “Our numbers are down. We knew it was coming. For the most part we’re relatively inexperienced. We’re going to learn on the go. Honestly, we have our work cut out for us.”
But the defending league champion Hornets do not shy away from hard work and, as one of the state’s traditionally strong programs, reloads quickly.
Bringing experience to the mat this season are returning junior Brandon Short, who finished sixth at state at 135 pounds. The Hornets also return state participants senior Brennan Gulin and sophomore Trevor Kurtz.
Youth is not the only factor thrown into the mix, like every program in the state, Klein is trying to get a grip on the new weight classifications (see story on page 14).
The season starts with a bang as the Hornets warm up with some of the state’s top teams at the Graham-Kapowsin jamboree tonight, Wednesday, and then host the annual White River Classic Saturday.
“This is probably the toughest Classic lineup yet,” Klein said of the 16-team tournament that begins in Buckley around 10 a.m. Among those teams will be defending state 3A champion Enumclaw and defending state 1A champion Orting. Also on the invite list are state 4A fifth-place team Graham-Kapowsin, and state 3A finishers, Yelm, fourth, Sunnyside, sixth, and Everett, 12th.