With a healthy mix of seasoned wrestlers and younger talent, coach Grant Leighty believes the Lakers boys wrestling team is in a good position to be competitive now and in the future. But the future can wait for the time being, coach Leighty is focused on winning now and has “high expectations” for his team of approximately 35 wrestlers.
“Our goals for this season are no different from any other season, get a little better each day” said Leighty about the Lakers’ aspirations for their upcoming season, “If we do that the wins and losses, dual wins, tournament finishes, will take care of themselves. I have every expectation to improve on last year’s dual record and tournament placement… but it is the little things that make the biggest difference.”
Coach Leighty continued his thoughts on what he would like his team to do this year by saying he wants to see his wrestlers at practice everyday, working hard and making themselves and the other wrestlers better, maintaining control of their weight, and improving their conditioning in order to be prepared for anything that comes their way during their season.
“These are the things we can control throughout the course of a season. Our motto is ‘Fortis Consummare’,” Leighty said. The Lakers’ motto is Latin, translated literally as “strong finish”.
Exhibited by their motto, finishing strong is central to the Lakers’ mindset. As a part of the aim to finish strong, coach Leighty pointed to two tournaments in particular that his team will be competing in this year. Leighty believes the “very tough” Monett and Harrisonville tournaments that the Lakers will take part in this season will be important to preparing his team for the stiff competition they will face once the playoffs begin.
“We are hoping this will have us ready for a successful postseason run,” coach Leighty said about the difficult competition they expect to face at those two tournaments in particular.
The experience of their returning wrestlers will surely play a large role in helping the Lakers in a deep postseason run as well. Camdenton is returning three state qualifiers this season and one state medalist, senior Dakota Davis. Davis was the runner-up at last year’s state championship in the 285-pound weight class and had a season record of 56-2— his only two losses coming against two state champion wrestlers, one of which was in overtime. Overall, the 11 returning starters for Camdenton gained valuable experience last season that will be beneficial to the team as a whole this season.
“We have a squad that gained a great deal of valuable experience. We had a lot of underclassmen in the line up that lacked that experience. We are just going to keep working hard, get better each day, try to benefit from our schedule and finish strong,” said coach Leighty, discussing how he anticipates his team’s experiences last season will help them continue to progress this year, “We have a good group of seniors and juniors and some great underclassmen. We expect great things.”
One obstacle the Lakers will need to overcome are the injuries some of their wrestlers are currently dealing with. Some like senior Cale Bentley and junior Wiley Powers are still trying to come back from injuries sustained during the football season, while others like junior Gunner Morris are recovering from non sports related illnesses that are currently preventing them from competing. Another issue Leighty and his team are contending with is the loss of players and staff. In addition to the usual losses associated with the previous year’s graduating class, Leighty and his staff also talked about some wrestlers simply choosing to not return for another year and the transition former assistant coach Kit Doran made from the boys team to the girls head coach.
“Kit’s a big, big, loss, but he’ll really help the girls,” Leighty said about his former assistant coach and current head coach of Camdenton’s girls wrestling team, Kit Doran.
Despite the challenges his team faces, Leighty retains his high expectations for his team and has the utmost confidence in them to work hard and succeed saying, “We hope to at least make people think about us.”
Camdenton’s boys wrestling team will face off against the Smith-Cotton Tigers and West Plains Zizzers at home for their first contest of the season on Tuesday, Nov. 30.