WEST LAFAYETTE -- Last season on the mat proved to be very successful for the Ridgewood High wrestling program and despite graduation losses to several talented grapplers expectations are high once again for the Generals.
Last year the Generals captured a Division III regional state duals championship along with three state qualifiers to highlight the season.
Nate Carpenter returns for his seventh season guiding the RHS wrestling program and feels with 10 returning letterman his Generals can again put together a successful season.
"We have a solid group of two-year letterman back with a ton of mat experience back," Carpenter explained. "We need those guys to step up and fill the leadership roles we lost from last year's seniors."
Among the departed talent this year will be Kelly Barthalow at heavyweight who capped a fine senior season with a fifth place finish at the OHSAA state wrestling meet to complete the season with an impressive 49-7 mark.
"Kelly was a guy you could just count on for six points each night," Carpenter said. "He was just a real solid wrestler and was a great leader with his work ethic...we will miss him for sure."
Other talented grapplers lost to graduation for the Generals include Dillan Shepler who finished 43-9 at the 220-pound weight class, Thor Reed 29-6 at 152, Ben Hostetler a sectional champion at 182 with a 44-12 mark and Phillip Shannon at state qualifier at 160.
"That senior class was just a special group who came in together as freshman and helped us turn our program around," Carpenter said. "We lost a lot of leadership from that group and that's what we are looking for right now...some new leaders to emerge."
Leading the returning lettermen for Ridgewood will be junior Colton Bethel (160), a two-time state qualifier who went 1-2 at the state meet last year with an overall record of 46-8.
"Obviously Colton has had a highly successful career," the RHS mentor offered. "He has really worked hard for that success and has set even higher goals he wants to reach. So he's a very motivated wrestler coming into the season."
Carpenter has plenty of talented Bethels to choose from on his roster with a trio of brothers also back with juniors Kasey (160, 25-6), and Kyle (138, 41-12) both two-time district qualifiers back in the fold. A football injury will cause the third Bethel brother, junior Kevin to miss the season due to injury.
"Both Kasey and Kyle are highly skilled wrestlers who are tough kids," Carpenter added. "In the past the biggest thing they lacked was confidence...but with their success hopefully they can improve in the area."
Another junior two-time district qualifier returning is James Kedigh (195) who turned in a mark of 32-14 last season.
"James stepped in as a freshmen with the Bethel brothers and contributed right away," Carpenter said. "I think they all push each other to work hard and it has paid off for all of them."
Rounding out the returning RHS lettermen are juniors Javon Merrill (152, 21-24) and Abram Buckler (152, 6-4) along with sophomores Tyler Caudy (132, 11-8) and Domonic McClung (113, 30-19).
"All four of those guys were contributors for us last year," Carpenter continued. "I really hope to see them improve and take that next step this year."
Another junior letterman for the Generals who will miss the first six weeks of the season with a football injury is Ian Schwab (160, 6-4).
Newcomers who Carpenter feels could contribute this season include freshman Cody West (120), a transfer from Orrville High and senior Dustin Carr (220) out for his first try at wrestling. Completing the RHS roster are junior Blake Hamilton (285), sophomores Fred Doberstien (126), Kolton Alexander (145) and Jason Stubbs (170).
"There are spots in the line-up for guys to take," Carpenter explained. "It's just up to them to work hard and earn those open spots."
Senior Cory Shaw (17)) returns after battling knee injuries the last few years and if healthy could contribute for the Generals.
"Cory has really had tough luck with knee problems the last few years," Carpenter said. "I hope it works out that he can stay healthy and show what he can do this year."
Carpenter's coaching staff this season includes Chad Massie, Sam Carpenter and Leroy Bethel.
In the Inter-Valley Conference last year, no league champion was crowned just individual weight class champions due to some IVC bylaws regarding not enough full teams.
"We did really well against other IVC teams last year," Carpenter offered. "But just had individual champions with no league champ due to some bylaw I guess...don't really understand it since they have same situation in cross country and had an IVC team winner but whatever."
Carpenter still feels that Garaway presents the biggest challenge to his Generals among the IVC teams.
"Garaway just has a real solid program," Carpenter said. "They will be strong as always and will be a good test for us."
"I just want to see our experienced guys take that next step and keep improving," Carpenter said. "And for the younger guys to get the proper mechanics down and learn the work ethic it takes to be a successful wrestler."