Deep Bulldog wrestling team returns three state qualifiers

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Members of the MFL MarMac wrestling team include (front, left to right) managers Savannah Schaller and Rose Koehn, cheerleaders Jordyn Jones, Clare Grau, Amara Buchheit, Alexis Ross, Kaylee Nuehring and Avery Ihde, and managers Emily Hendrickson-Troester and Emma Keehner; (second row) assistant coach Brent Pape, Koal Klenk, Bryce Radloff, Kadence Pape, Aleyna Rodriguez, Cortney Schroeder, Haylee Guyer, Isabella Bogdonovich, Holden Mathis, Konnor Barat-Klimesh; (third row) head coach Chet Bachman, Mason Overton, Michael Knickerbocker, Collin Henkels, Codi Humble, Tristen Koehn, Austin Schlee, Kashton Mathis, Andrew Heins, assistant coach Collin Stubbs; (back) assistant coach Tracy Decker, Taylor Herzmann, Logan Brown, Karter Decker, Jacob Trudo, Nolan Lerch, Tyler Zuercher, Gabe McGeough and assistant coaches Mike Meyer and Chip McGeough. Not pictured are Austin Nickolai, JJ Lynd, Landon Johnson, Caleb Nordheim and Noah Bond. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The MFL MarMac wrestling roster features nearly 30 athletes this year—including a record five girls—an amount that should help the team fill all 14 weight classes.

“We’ve got plenty of depth,” said head coach Chet Bachman.

Leading the team will be three state qualifiers from a season ago: senior heavyweight Jacob Trudo, junior Gabe McGeough, who will likely wrestle at 152 or 160 pounds, and sophomore Karter Decker, who will compete in the 138 or 145 weight classes.

“Then you bring in [junior] Kashton Mathis, a district qualifier. And you bring in some eighth graders who’ve got some pretty good experience. Tristen Koehn placed fourth at AAU, and that’s pretty impressive as an eighth grader. Bryce Radloff, I think he was an AAU state place winner. Holden Mathis has got some skills. He was just a match away from going to AAU state last year,” Bachman shared. “Usually, I don’t talk too much about AAU, but when you place as an eighth grader, that’s saying something.”

Bachman said the Bulldogs also look to get junior Andrew Heins, who was a conference champion as a freshman, back from injury.

“He’s been working slowly. That’s day to day, week to week,” the coach noted.

According to Bachman, MFL MarMac has much of its depth in the middle weights, but should be able to cover the light and heavy weights too. He anticipates senior Koal Klenk will fill the 106 slot, with freshman Konnor Barat-Klimesh at 113.

“There’s a bunch of guys between 120, 126 and 132. It’s just going to take some adjustment by the kids to make sure they’re doing the right things to get where they need to be,” Bachman said. 

Prospects for those weights include Heins, Radloff, Holden Mathis and junior Caleb Nordheim. Kashton Mathis will likely wrestle at 138, followed by Decker at 138 or 145, Koehn at 145 or 152 and McGeough at 152 or 160. Sophomore Austin Schlee will be in the 160 weight class, then senior Austin Nickolai at 170. Bachman said the 182 spot could be filled by sophomore Michael Knickerbocker or junior Collin Henkels, while freshmen Mason Overton and Nolan Lerch will cover 195. At 220 will be sophomore Tyler Zuercher and senior Logan Brown, then Trudo at heavyweight.

Looking at the Upper Iowa Conference, Bachman said South Winneshiek and North Fayette Valley will be the stiffest competition.

“We like to think we can figure ourselves in there too,” he quipped.

The Bulldogs’ schedule will be a bit lighter than anticipated this season. COVID-19 has already cancelled tournaments at Starmont and Lancaster, Wis., as well as the Battle of Waterloo. Bachman isn’t worried about replacing them with other contests, though.

“Right now, I think we do too much to try to stay with everybody else, and we can’t worry about everyone else. I think we wrestle too much and the season’s too long,” he said. “Having 50, 60 matches is too much for some of these kids. I think you can wear them out.”

Keeping wrestlers healthy will be the key this year, more than ever. Current COVID-19 safety precautions include temperature checks before practice and each individual using their own water bottle. Bachman and the other coaches have instructed athletes to space themselves out in the wrestling room as much as possible and trade partners more frequently. 

“The one good thing about wrestling is we stay super clean,” he added. “We’re used to that.”

Masks are not yet required for competition, but Bachman said he will likely implement them at practices. Some masks, made especially for athletes, have been ordered. Rather than going around the ears, the mask bands will wrap around the back of the head. Wearing masks will keep the team safer, he stressed. 

“Kids don’t like the idea and I don’t like the idea, but we have to do it to participate and keep us safe for competition,” he said. “I think we need to start requiring them in practice. The schools who are legit and have a pretty good squad are definitely doing that. We’re for sure going to have to do it down the road, when you’re worrying about sectionals, districts and state.”

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Bachman continued. “You look at each day and go from there and find a way.”

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