Seniors will lead Panther wrestlers,
Underclassmen will be key players
Youth can be a blessing or a curse, and in the case of Paola Panther Head Wrestling Coach Russ Hermreck it may be a little of both this season.
“We’re going to be young, really young,” Hermreck said. “We have the possibility of four or five freshmen in our starting line-up.”
But youth will be served, and in this case Hermreck looks to the season as a challenge and an opportunity.
“This is an exciting opportunity,” Hermreck said. “We’ll have the opportunity to build these youngsters, I like this challenge.”
While youth will dominate the Panthers this season, Hermreck was quick to point out that the team does have senior leadership.
“We have a good group of seniors,” Hermreck said.
That group of seniors are led by Sharky Slyter at 119 lbs., Mitch Mosley at 140 lbs., Seth Helliker at 160 lbs., and Parker Staats at 189 lbs. Staats will be challenged at 189 lbs., by senior Anthony Floyd.
Mosley and Helliker posted nearly identical records last year at 21-16 and 20-16 respectively. Slyter is the most decorated retuning wrestler, coming off a 38-4 season and a fifth place finish in the state during his junior campaign.
“Sharky Slyter has won at just about every level he’s wrestled at,” said Hermreck. “But those seniors will have to lead us early.”
Even though the team may be young, Hermreck said they do have experience, thanks to a well run youth wrestling team in Paola. Hermreck said the Paola youth wrestling club has given these youngsters experience at many levels.
“They have experience in tournaments all the way up to the state level,” Hermreck said. “But now they’re going to be stepping up with the big boys, but the kids wrestling program has prepared them well for high school.”
The Panthers, young and not so young will cut their wrestling teeth in a big way, as they will compete in two of the toughest tournaments of the season, opening at Gardner and then a week later going to Eudora.
“Gardner is one of the best tournaments we’ll compete in,” Hermreck said. “And this year they’ve added Bishop Carroll which is a state power every year.”
Hermreck is confident that his team will grow and learn through the season, and in the end they’ll be ready to compete at any level.
“We have to focus on the things we can handle and control,” Hermreck said. “The main thing our kids have to understand is that there’s a tradition here. They have to know that it means something when they put on the black and gold.”