Preview: Raider wrestlers are youthful but talented
This will be a unique year for the Hastings wrestling team. The Raiders will bring all kinds of talent to the mat, but they will be very inexperienced.
Hastings has just three seniors on the roster, including one first-year wrestler and one who has a broken hand. That leaves all kinds of opportunities for underclassmen. There are 15 freshmen, one eighth-grader and one seventh-grader among the team members.
There are 14 sophomores and 10 juniors, too.
"(We have) new kids stepping up and expecting to win," coach Josh McLay said. "We can't be happy with just making the team, but we need to go out and beat kids we are supposed to and find ways to upset higher ranked kids and teams.
"We pride ourselves on our conditioning and trying to be the best conditioned team in the state, the only way to do that is by outworking the other teams in the practice room every day."
Captains are Dan Marquette and Luke Rowh. Both are juniors.
"Luke is the more the verbal leader, but he does lead by example as well," McLay said. "Dan leads by example and does great academically as well. They are two of the best captains a coach could ask for. They're always looking to get workouts in. Both come in almost every morning just to get a lift in without being asked to do so."
Several athletes will have key roles for Hastings, including the three seniors.
Jesse Green is a first-year wrestler.
"He is picking it up very quick, and is extremely coachable," McLay said.
Duncan Tweet is a "hard worker," McLay said, who broke a bone in his wrist. He will be out most of the season but is at every practice.
Josh Kickbush is recovering from cancer.
"He is looking very tough and looking to break through into the state tournament individually and continues to be a 'team' guy. (He) always wants to help out the team in any way he can at any weight class. That means he has to bump up to heavyweight sometimes, even though he only weighs around 215. It doesn't even bother him."
Key returning athletes include junior Andy Rachuy, who placed third in the toughest weight class in the section last year.
"He is looking to place at state this year," McLay said.
Tony Lodermeier is a junior, too.
"He is looking to make waves this year after a great year backing up all-stater Isaac Eichmann last season."
Daryale Harris, a junior, backed up Jake Swenson last year. This year he'll be in the varsity lineup.
"Both him and Tony have big shoes to fill, but they are looking very tough," McLay said.
Sophomore Jake Anderson beat several all-state wrestlers and ranked wrestlers last year.
"He is looking to set his own mark this year," McLay said. "He is built with nothing but heart."
While the team is built with a number of relative newcomers, the goals for Hastings haven't changed.
"They are always the same - winning the conference, the section and placing at the state tournament," McLay said. "We are currently ranked No. 8 in the state, which is great, but we are ranked behind two section opponents. We have our work cut out for us.
"As far as individual goals, we want to get the kids to state that we expect to, and some new faces that are yet to step up, which makes it very exciting."
In the Suburban East Conference, Hastings is considered the favorite again. The main competition this year will come from Forest Lake, White Bear Lake and Stillwater.
"We can't overlook any of them," McLay said. "Otherwise, we won't be bringing back the conference championship."