By Chris Chaney
The New Richmond Lions’ wrestling team has established a reputation over the last few seasons as one of the best in the area. After winning their third straight Southern Buckeye title and backing that up with their third straight sectional title, the Lions sent quite a few qualifiers upstate, including state placer JR Forsee and state alternate James White.
However, all that success usually comes with experience and Lions fans were interested to see how the team would bounce back after losing 12 seniors to graduation a year ago.
One person that wasn’t too concerned about the team that would be taking to the mat was head coach Deron Shinkle. Although the team is younger than in years past, the coach was confident that once the season got underway and the wrestlers settled into their weight classes, the Lions could put together another successful campaign.
“We should be pretty decent this year once we get everybody down into their established weight classes,” Shinkle said. “The lower weights are a little bit inexperienced at the varsity level. We have some kids who have some experience here and there in varsity matches, but it’s not too bad. We’ll be okay.”
Shinkle was optimistic about what his team was capable of, but even he couldn’t have expected the level of wrestling his Lions put on display in their season-opening tournament at the Roger Bacon Invitation, winning the entire thing.
“Somebody forgot to tell the Lions Wrestling team they graduated 12 seniors last year and should be ‘rebuilding’ this year,” Shinkle wrote on the New Richmond sports blog following the victory. “Most of the team is getting their first shot at the varsity lineup and have decided to make the most of their opportunity. They are going to ‘reload’ the varsity lineup and ignore terms like ‘rebuild.’ They are looking to pave their own way to four straight league and sectional titles.”
The Lions would face five opponents during their first meet of the season, including a few ranked among the best in the city.
New Richmond began the day defeating Talawanda 45-28, then dismantled Wyoming 63-12 and Oak Hills 63-18 in the last two matches of the preliminary round.
During the medal round in the afternoon, New Richmond eeked out a win over Kentucky’s Cooper High School, 39-34 before facing the Reading Blue Devils in the gold medal match.
The Lions fell behind 18-0 after the first three matches, but rallied to come from behind with Lance Houser winning the final match of the day to seal the victory 37-30.
Among the top performers were seniors Kevin Reid and Lance Houser, both who went a perfect 5-0 on the day. Nathan Dixon, Jake Preston, Autumn Clark and James White went 4-1 while AJ Rostetter, Tristan Williams, Jared Bray and Josh Bauscher all secured three wins.
Bobby Bingham and Shawn Elam both captured their first varsity victories as well.
With the first match of the season going so well, it would seem as if the sky is the limit for the 2012-13 Lions. Shinkle expects the league to be tight all year long, but the New Richmond reputation is still what dictates the team’s goals.
“The team goal is to repeat as the league champs,” he said. “That should be a goal every year, I believe. And then (another goal would be) to repeat as sectional champs as well. That would be pretty good.”
The Lions will keep challenging themselves going forward, beginning with a tri-match with No. 1-ranked Ross on Wednesday, Dec. 5 before heading to Glen Este on Friday, Dec. 7.