MEMBERS OF THE ANTWERP HIGH SCHOOL varsity wrestling team are, front row from left – Hayden Wagner, Aiden McAlexander, Tanner Wentland, Johnessa LaFountain; back row – Coach Jeremy Kosch, Caleb Wilson, Trayce Lengacher, Randall Mills, Coach Adam Kosch.
MEMBERS OF THE ANTWERP HIGH SCHOOL varsity wrestling team are, front row from left – Hayden Wagner, Aiden McAlexander, Tanner Wentland, Johnessa LaFountain; back row – Coach Jeremy Kosch, Caleb Wilson, Trayce Lengacher, Randall Mills, Coach Adam Kosch.
By BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Progress Sports Writer

ANTWERP - It was a memorable wrestling season on the mats at Antwerp a year ago and more memories appear to be on the horizon for the 2018-19 campaign.

After all, there are more wrestlers in the program this season and everyone from a year ago is back for head coach Adam Kosch.

That includes Aidan McAlexander, who became the first wrestler in school history to reach the state tournament.

“He’s our superstar, so to speak,” Kosch said of the senior, who a year ago finished third in the 106-pound weight class at the Division III state tourney. “He’s going to be moving up to 120 most likely, but I think he can still make it to state and get on the podium again. He’s got the talent to do it, he’s just got to work on the minute details on technique.

“He has room for improvement and he knows that. And he’s motivated. It’s his senior year and he’s ready for it.”

During a 34-4 campaign that included a Green Meadows Conference title, McAlexander set school records for most takedowns in a single season and tied the single-season pin mark (24) in addition to becoming the first sectional champion, first state qualifier and first state placer at Antwerp. McAlexander totaled 129 takedowns on the season.

Randall Mills, a two-time district qualifier, nearly gave the Archers a pair of state qualifiers, but came up short with a 2-2 record at districts. Now a junior, last year’s 113-pound GMC champ is expected to bump up to 120 or 126 this season depending on where McAlexander wrestles.

“He wants to make it to state this year,” Kosch said of Mills, who was a sectional runner-up a year ago during a 28-9 season. “He went with Aidan to state last year and this year wants to qualify. He’s a really hard worker and has gained a lot of experience in the four years that he’s been wrestling.”

Senior Tanner Wentland is the third returnee from last season, with plans this year to move up from 138 to either 145 or 152.

“He was one match from making it to districts last year,” Kosch noted about Wentland, who had a 9-13 record. “I hope he can make it to districts this year. He just needs to avoid sloppy positions. He’s real strong, he just needs to clean up his technique.”

While all three wrestlers that competed for Antwerp a year ago are back, there will be company on the practice mats this season with seven total wrestlers on the 2018-19 roster.

“Compared with last year, I like that it went up,” Kosch said of the numbers in the varsity program. “But we still want more. I’d like to fill all the weight classes one day.”

Is that a possibility?

“Our club numbers are still good,” Kosch noted. “We just tend to lose some in middle school or high school for some reason. We’ve got to keep those kids. Once we figure that out, we’ll have a full squad.”

Although numbers are up, there is one problem.

“I wish they were more spread out,” Kosch explained. “We have a lot of guys filling in between 120 and 130, so it’s going to be hard to find a permanent place.”

Freshmen Trayce Lenagher and Caleb Wilson bring experience from the junior high program.

“Hopefully, he’ll be able to place at the GMCs this year,” Kosch said of Lenagher, who is expected to wrestle at 106 or 113 after competing in junior high at 95. “He had a growth spurt over the summer and grew like six inches. I think that size will help him in the lower weight class.”

Wilson is likely to compete at either 152 or 160 in his first year of varsity action.

“He’s a hard worker,” Kosch said of Wilson. “His problem is going to be that he falls into a tough weight class. That’s where the average-sized high school kid is at. The middle weights are the tougher ones.”

A pair of newcomers to the sport have joined the program in freshmen Haden Wagner and Jahnessa LaFountain.

“Haden’s never wrestled before,” Kosch said of Wagner, who is expected to wrestle somewhere between 120 and 132. “If he sticks with it he can learn a lot. He seems to have good athletic skills. He’s a scrappy little guy that can pick up a lot from Aidan and Randall. I think he’ll be alright.”

LaFountain is looking at competing in either the 106-pound weight class or at 113.

“She’s never wrestled before, so I think 106 would be a good weight class for her,” Kosch noted.

Kosch is optimistic as the start of the season nears.

“Right now we’re looking at getting in shape,” Kosch said about the early-season outlook. “Some of them did football or cross country, but that’s a different shape than wrestling shape. We’re also working on brushing up our technique.”

The Antwerp head coach likes the addition of a tournament to this year’s slate, with the Border Wars in Defiance, a two-day event scheduled for Dec. 28-29.

“That’s a tough tournament with schools from Indiana,” Kosch said. “There are a lot of NWOAL schools, plus Defiance and Wayne Trace and some other GMC schools. I think that will give us an early indication of where we’re at as a team and what we need to improve upon as far as a team and technique.”

The regular season concludes with the GMC tournament at Fairview.

“We’d like to have two or three champions,” Kosch said of the league tourney. “As a team, we don’t know where we’ll finish - last year we finished last. Tinora’s won it the last three or four years but Wayne Trace has some good young wrestlers so that’s a team to watch along with Ayersville and Edgerton. I think those four will be in the hunt, but that’s not to say we can’t play spoiler.”

With the small roster, Kosch admits to pointing at the individual results more than team results.

“Where we’re at now, we don’t emphasize team, we’re about building the individual up,” Kosch concluded.