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Published: Thursday, 12/18/2008

SIDELINES: Elmwood has big task wrestling SLL crown from Eastwood

Elmwood has its sights set on a Suburban Lakes League championship with top wrestlers, from left, Cody Alexander, Alex Betts and Jordan Ackley. Elmwood has its sights set on a Suburban Lakes League championship with top wrestlers, from left, Cody Alexander, Alex Betts and Jordan Ackley.
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Before you read any further, make sure you are seated. Buckling up a seat belt wouldn t be a bad idea, either.

Ready? Suburban Lakes League coaches selected a preseason favorite to win the league title, and they didn t pick Eastwood.

You heard right. Perennial state power Eastwood, the five-time defending SLL champ, was not picked to finish first. Instead the league s coaches chose Elmwood.

Now remember and nothing against my team, my wrestlers and my coaches but they only chose us by one point, Elmwood coach Dave Lee is quick to point out.

And Lee is correct. The Royals received 52 points in the poll, while the Eagles were close behind with 51. Genoa (44) was third and Lakota (31) fourth.

So why was Elmwood picked for the top spot?

I think the other coaches knew we have a good senior class that has a lot of experience, Lee explained. And while our junior and sophomore classes may be small, we have a lot of kids back that placed [in the league meet] last year.

And Eastwood graduated a number of its best wrestlers.

The Royals will be led by seniors Alex Betts, who finished second at district at 152 pounds, and Cody Alexander (140), who qualified for the state meet in 2007.

Sophomore Nick Goebel (103) placed fifth at the district as a freshman and joins five other Elmwood wrestlers seniors Jordan Ackley (171) and Travis Tahy (215) as well as juniors Tyler Baer (145), Westley Lee (119) and Nic Hernandez (130) who were district qualifiers.

Our kids are hungry for [a title], Lee said. On paper, we do have a lot of points back.

But to win, our wrestlers who are predicted to be tough are going to have to be tough, and our young, inexperienced wrestlers have to pull off some upsets, get some points and surprise some people.

Eastwood will replace seven starters in its 14-man lineup, including two-time state champ Eric Cubberly as well as two other state place-winners Jeremy Foster and Evan Roth and five SLL champs overall.

But don t shed any tears for the Eagles, since they do return three league champs in seniors David Eaton (135), a returning state qualifier, and Kasey Lacourse (119) as well as junior Tyler Hahn (125).

Eastwood also had top wrestlers behind some of the graduated seniors. One example is at 171, where senior Luke Eschenbrenner qualified for districts as a sophomore but was stuck behind Roth last year.

Genoa may not have the depth of the two front-runners, but the Comets don t lack for talent. Among the returnees are four district qualifiers from last season: senior Troy Espinoza (140), junior Scott Traver (135) and sophomores Shawn Gantka (119) and Seth Dufendock (160).

Senior brothers Chris and Mike Kleman will lead Lakota this season. Both are two-time district qualifiers who will wrestle back-to-back at 171 and 189 and join a third senior who advanced to district for the first time last season, Kevin Lowery at 152.

The new coach at Otsego is Tom Maidlow, who had great success at McComb. The Knights return three district qualifiers from last season in Alex Glenn (119/125) and Kodie Glosser (112), both juniors, and sophomore Todd Box (135/140).

Lake has only five letter winners back, but the returnees include seniors Nick Espinoza (135/140) and junior Brandon Tantari (189), a pair of district qualifiers last year.

Gibsonburg also brings back two district wrestlers in seniors Aaron Roach (135) and Chris Repp (215), while Woodmore lost its two district qualifiers from last year.

Contact John Wagner at:jwagner@theblade.comor 419-724-6481.

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