In the wrestling room, tucked above Seymour High School’s commons, fresh faces have been battling it out on the mats.
This season, 13 wrestlers on the Owls’ 27-man roster are freshmen.
The wrestling program at Seymour has seen an influx of young wrestlers, and it is continuing to grow at the middle school and elementary levels.
While many of the bodies are new to the high school program, all of the newbies have extensive wrestling résumés.
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“I don’t think we have any freshmen who haven’t wrestled before,” Owls coach Todd Weaver said. “Other than a couple who have only wrestled for a year or two, most of our kids have wrestled for three to four years. They’re going and wrestling tournaments. We had kids who are not just doing local tournaments but traveling to nationwide tournaments.
“They’re kids who we have been working with the past couple of years. Our feeder program is finally starting to show. They are coming to weightlifting and club practices in the offseason. Not only do we have 13 freshmen, but we have 13 kids who are pretty tough, and that’s the big thing. They can really wrestle.”
In his third year as the coach at the high school, Weaver said he has been told that there haven’t been that many freshmen on the team in a long time — possibly ever.
“It has been a long time since the program has seen this many freshmen,” Weaver said. “It’s not like it’s the first time (the freshmen) have been around our coaching staff. They’ve been working with us a very long time. Even though we teach and review at the beginning of the season, it’s not so basic that we’re starting from square one. We’re getting them back into the flow and going from there.”
The 2015-16 Owls team started its preparation for the season long ago in the weight room.
“We spend a lot of time in the weight room,” Weaver said. “The weight room is the center of what we do along with live wrestling and working with individuals.
“(The roster numbers) are pretty normal compared to other programs that are having success,” Weaver said. “At times, we had 20 to 30 kids all through the spring here, which I don’t think has ever happened here. That’s the key. They’re spending so much time on the mat, they’re preparing for the speed of the varsity matches.”
Weaver said there are about 40 kids in the middle school program headed by Joe Penegar.
At the elementary level, Justin Ratliff and staff are coaching about 70 kids.
Right now, five of the freshmen have wrestled in varsity matches, including a 5-0 sweep at the Bedford North Lawrence Invitational.
In practices, Weaver has integrated the freshmen in with the upperclassmen at times.
“From time to time, we will put some of the older guys with the younger ones on the mat at practice,” Weaver said. “With live wrestling, we try to separate them as much as we can. About Christmastime, we will mix it up a little more.”
Weaver said the 2015-16 schedule was adjusted to get more wrestlers on the mat.
“You have to grow and get everyone involved,” he said. “Not just get them involved, but get them to stick around. That’s what I think has changed for us. We’re getting kids out and staying. We’ve actually revamped our schedule.
“Those junior varsity kids have a schedule that mimics the varsity. They will wrestle every weekend. I think, in the past, that’s why kids didn’t stick around.
“They just wrestled JV during duals on weekdays. They would be lucky to wrestle seven times all year long. These guys are going to get between 20 and 30 matches in this year just like the varsity.”