The Smith-Cotton Tigers wrestling team opens its 2015-16 season with a new coach at the helm and successful wrestlers returning.
With the new season upon the team, the Tigers are looking to alleviate some depth problems, but expectations still center on success. Charlie McFail, first-year head coach for Smith-Cotton, said the expectations for the team include filling weight classes and being successful on the mat.
“The first thing we want to do is make sure we have a full varsity and a full JV, that’s a goal we strive for every year,” McFail said. “That’s our number one goal is just to have a solid team all the way around. Every year we want to compete for a conference championship. We have the seven schools in our conference, and we have to duel each one of those and we want to make sure that we beat each one of those and put ourselves in a position to win the conference crown.”
The Warrensburg-Smith-Cotton rivalry extends to the wrestling mat, as Warrensburg is Smith-Cotton’s biggest competition for the West Central Conference title. McFail said Warrensburg has “had a real strong program the last 10 years. The coaches over there do a great job getting their kids in shape, making them good technicians … For the conference crown the last few years, it’s been us and Warrensburg, and Warrensburg’s won more than we have so were trying to change that up.”
Both coaches and wrestlers are helping out on addressing depth issues, talking with other students on campus to try to spark some interest. “Basically it’s word of mouth,” said McFail.
With Kris Houk, Logan Parham and Blake Pomajzl all returning this year with state match experience, Smith-Cotton will have veteran wrestlers to lead the way. However, fellow 2015 state competitor Tanner Proctor graduated, and McFail said the team will have to make up for the loss.
“We gotta fill (Proctor’s) shoes; he was a great competitor and a good athlete, and kinda led our team last year, but that’s part of it,” McFail said. “You have new kids that have to step in and take those roles.”
Parham, a senior, said the team is young overall, but senior leadership will be present.
“We’re looking to be big leaders for them,” he said. “We have some pretty good talent in the sophomore and freshman class, and I think they can do good things, and with our senior class having the success that we had last year, we can help bring them along too, and hopefully get them going fast.”
Intensity has also been a focus for the Tigers heading into the season. Houk, a sophomore, said, “If you’re not intense during wrestling, you’re probably going to lose the match, and no one likes to lose, so, if you practice intense you’re going to wrestle intense.”
Houk added that the personalities of last year’s head coach Joel Sherman and McFail are different; Sherman was quieter, and McFail is more vocal.
“If I am doing something wrong, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and he (McFail) tells me, then that’s bettering me,” Houk said.
Houk’s trip to state last year has provided him a teaching moment for his fellow underclassmen going into the season.
“Last year a lot of people told me I wasn’t going to make it to state because I was a freshman,” Houk said. So his message is: “Don’t think just because you’re a freshman you can’t make it to state because you can. There’s a lot of people that aren’t that much older than you that wrestled in your weight class … but then again, most of the time you’re just as good as them, if not better than them.”
Chase Plymell is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.