WEST LAFAYETTE -- Ridgewood High will send a very young wrestling team out to the mats this season as the squad will have no seniors on the 14 man roster for the upcoming season.
"We are just so young this year," Ridgewood coach Nate Carpenter said. "With no seniors, we will need our juniors to step and be leaders for the team. We just need to develop all our young wrestlers as the season goes along, which should happen as they will gain lots of experience on the mat."
Carpenter who enters his third season leading the RHS wrestling program, welcomes back a total of six lettermen this season led by state qualifier Cole Zeigler (126/Junior) who finished with an impressive 49-7 record last season. This year Zeigler will move up from the 120-pound weight class he wrestled at last year to 126-pound division this season.
Despite just being a junior, Zeigler has already enjoyed a lot of success on the mat with being a district qualifier as a freshman.
"Cole has already racked up 92 wins entering his junior year," Carpenter said. "So he is our most experienced wrestler by far and will be one of the juniors count on to provide leadership to our young team."
"Cole's not a real vocal guy, he's one of those kids who lead by setting a great example with his work ethic," Carpenter said. "I hope he can become more vocal as well, but he's definitely a guy the rest of the team looks up to..no question."
Yet another junior letterman Carpenter will count on will be Garrett Bethel (160/Junior), who last season checked in with a mark of 29-9 for the Generals and was a district alternate.
"Like Cole, Garrett has wrestled for me since his freshman year," Carpenter explained. "So I will also be looking for him to be a leader for us, he's a kid who has a lot of ability on the wrestling mat."
"Last year Garrett got off to just a great start to the season," Carpenter said. "Then he kind of wore down a bit, but finished real strong. I'm looking for some big things from him this year."
A pair of returning lettermen in sophomores Thor Reed (145) and Phillip Shannon (152) will also be key members of the Generals' grapplers this season. Reed finished his freshman campaign with a 10-20 record, while Shannon put together a 26-14 mark last year.
"Thor was a guy who was in the line-up for us all the time and had a solid season," Carpenter said. "Although it didn't show up in wins and losses, he really progressed as the season went along. I think he will really show some marked improvement thanks to all the experience he gained last year."
"Shannon had a great freshman year," Carpenter continued. "He was the IVC champion last year at 152....just a real strong wrestler. And of my underclassman, he's one guy that could also provide us with some leadership this year. I look for him to step up this year and really make some noise."
Completing the returning lettermen for the Generals are Zach Donley (182/Sophomore) and Kelly Barthalow (285/Sophomore). Donley compiled a 8-25 record last season, while Barthalow was 5-6.
"Zach is a real strong, physical kid," Carpenter said. "He was forced to wrestle at a heavier weight last year and was kind of light, so he took some abuse. So again, I look for that experience he gained to pay off for him this year."
Bartalow is competing for the heavyweight slot with Trevor Fuller (285/Sophomore) in preseason practice according to Carpenter.
"Kelly and Trevor are battling at 285 for us," Carpenter said. "It's turning out to be a real interesting competition and could end up going back and forth all season. They are both good wrestlers and the competition will help them push each other."
The rest of the Ridgewood wrestling roster is comprised of Blake Powell (113/Junior), Daniel Cutshall (120/Junior), Nate Schwartz (132/Sophomore), Nick Addy (138/Freshman), Ben Hostetler (170/Sophomore), Scott Madison (195/Freshman), and Chancey Johnston (220/Freshman).
Carpenter's coaching staff this season will include Chad Massie at the varsity level, with Leroy Bethel and Hollis Lahna taking care of the junior high program.
In looking at the Inter-Valley Conference this year, Carpenter feels there could be a darkhorse to challenge perennial wrestling powers Sandy Valley and Garaway.
"You always have to start with Sandy Valley and Garaway in the IVC wrestling world," Carpenter said. "They both just have great programs, thy get the numbers out every year and that's always a plus...something we struggle with here. But I think Newcomerstown could be in there this year, they return a lot of kids and had a solid showing last year."
"For us, of course I'd like to be up there with the "Big Boys" at the top," Carpenter said. "But I don't know if were quite ready for that yet being so young. So we will just look to compete each and every night out, and grow as individuals as well as a team."