By Scott Bidroski
For longtime wrestling Coach Ward Wacker and the Gordon-Rushville Mustangs, there is going to be plenty of bodies in the wrestling room this winter.
A large contingency of returners will once again wear the blue and orange and a large influx of underclassmen are looking to get their first taste of high school wrestling as well.
Joining the boys this season are four young ladies as well, creating the largest girls team in school history.
Leading the charge for the team is a group of seniors who have amassed a large amount of experience.
Senior Jace Freeseman, who is a three-time State Qualifier, will take to the mat for his final season.
Freeseman finished last year with 25 wins and a 1-2 record at State.
An interesting addition to the team this year is joining the roster via transfer.
Senior Ashton Dane joins the G-R program after a very successful junior year.
Dane finished the 2021-22 season with 37 wins and a perfect 4-0 record at the Nebraska State Tournament, earning him the Class B 106 pound title.
“Having a state champion on the team is advantageous not just for the points he can score, but for what he brings to our younger, lighter kids in the practice room that will make them much better as the season goes on,” said Coach Wacker.
The Mustangs return two other State Qualifiers to their roster, along with Freeseman and Dane.
Junior Tucker Banister, who compiled 27 wins last season, returns to the line-up. Banister is a two-time State Qualifier.
Sophomore Kyler Vincent, who amassed an impressive 32 wins in his freshman campaign, also qualified for State and is ready to get started on his sophomore year.
Other seniors on the roster include: Traiton Starr (24 wins), Sage Krebs (9 wins), and Aydon McDonald (18 wins), and Curtis Rittgarn. Rittgarn, who has missed the two previous seasons due to injury, will make his return to the mat. He qualified for State as a freshman.
Starr has also previously qualified in his career, making the trip to Omaha as a sophomore.
“Having three returning qualifiers is awesome as I think that all three can score more points at state,” said Coach Wacker.
“Adding in the two others with state experience could give us top ten potential as a team,” he added.
On the girls side, senior Kylie Coomes will wrestle this season. Coomes has not wrestled in her high school career but will look to make an impact in her final year at GRHS.
Coomes will be joined by a trio of freshman. Kirsten Heck, Lainey Fillmore, and Jenifer Banister will all put on the blue and orange to make the largest Girls team in program history.
“Four girls make up our Girls team this year and they show great promise as they are hard working and enthusiastic,” said Coach Wacker.
“I’m hoping we will have some representation at the Girls State Tournament this year,” he added.
With the influx of underclassmen and the returning grapplers, Coach Wacker is hopeful to fill each weight class in every tournament.
“We should be the team to beat in the Western Trails Conference (WTC) again this year,” said Coach Wacker.
“Districts will be tough as there looks to be four top ten teams in our district. But if we do what we are capable of, I think we can hang in there team wise which would set us up good for state,” he added.
The girl’s team will get their season started at a Quad in Hemingford on Thursday, December 1.
The boy’s season will begin on Saturday, December 3 with a tournament in Broken Bow. This will feature both the junior varsity and varsity rosters.