Owls loaded with experience
It's been many years since the Marshall wrestling team could boast as many veterans as it does this season.
What an opportune moment for Richmond native Cody Hogan to take over the program.
"We have a great group of athletes," Hogan proclaimed. "They feed off each other, push each other."
It doesn't hurt that Hogan is familiar with the Owls, having spent the last three years as an assistant to Greg Woodring -- who will also be back in the mat room with the staff of Daniel Agao and former Marshall grapplers Alex McKinney and Josh Ming.
"That makes it easy," Hogan admitted. "They know what you're about and what you bring to the table."
Hogan wants to the Owls to attack.
"We want to be aggressive on our feet and continuously wrestling," he explained. "We want out-wrestle our opponents where we can break them physically, break them mentally and control the match."
Marshall only lost two seniors, one of them state-qualifying 220-pounder Edward Hecke, but has nine returning starters -- five of them upperclassmen.
"Having that knowledge makes it easier for us as a coaching staff, and not having to take the time to go over the little things," Hogan said. "It's a full-circle effect."
Even the newcomers mostly have competed in youth wrestling as members of Team Owls, so "they have the basics down," according to Hogan.
The Owls are a little thin in the lighter weights, but are looking for freshman Gavin Mills (106) pounds to make an impact and for sophomore Jaden Riley (120) -- last year's starter at 113 -- to continue developing, while freshman Diego Carranza (113) learns the ropes.
The strength in the lower half of the line-up is all-state senior Dalton Landreth (126), who led the team with 33 wins last year. He placed fourth at state last season after reaching the finals the year before, so is expected to provide leadership.
"He has taken a hold of that position," Hogan said. "It's a huge step for him. We expect him to keep pushing himself and others."
Senior Cameron Morrison (132) is also a four-year starter, with sophomore Zander Hager looking for more action. Senior T-Love William (138) and junior Matthew Huston (145) should be competitive, with another boost coming from senior Eli Jackson (152) on the verge of a breakout.
Sophomore Ethan Stickels (160) was a workhorse last year, his 40 matches high for the team, and juniors Sebastian Colbert and Reggie Donre battling for the 182-pound spot.
Senior Ryan Henderson (182) was a state qualifier as a sophomore, but was set back by an injury late last season.
"He really wants to get to state and get a medal," Hogan said. "He just has to keep healthy and keep on the mat."
Juniors Tielor Bradshaw and Kyle Gann are seeking the 195-pound position and freshman T.J. Williams is ready to take over at 220.
"He's got so much talent," Hogan declared. "We're looking for big things from him the next four years."
Seniors Starlin White (220) and Michael Root (275) hope to break through, but Marshall returns a quality heavyweight in senior Jonathan Sprigg -- who barely missed advancing to state a year ago.
Overall, it's a deep line-up, without any major holes.
"I could see us competing for a conference title," Hogan said about the Owls' NCMC prospects. "We're going to have to wrestle our style and wrestle tough."
The move up to Class 3 limited the number of athletes Marshall could qualify to two, but it's better prepared for the larger schools this time around and expects to have a larger contingent to Columbia.
"I feel confident about it," Hogan said. "Being there last year and seeing we could compete with all of these kids, it built on our confidence. I think we can make a great showing."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org