NEW PARIS —After seeing two wrestlers make the podium in the state tournament and claiming the program’s first-ever tournament last season, expectations continue to grow for National Trail’s wrestling program heading into the 2015-16 season.
The roster will not have any seniors after losing four to graduation, but leadership will still exist according to head coach Mike Eyler.
“We have some leadership gone but we have a few guys who are chomping at the bit to get into those leadership roles for us,” he said.
One of those leaders will be junior Ben Sullivan who returns to the program after finishing third in the state a year ago. Sullivan has made it to the podium twice before this season.
Eyler said the goal for Sullivan is simple: “Our expectations for Ben is to get to the top of podium this year — we are doing everything we can to get him the training he needs, get him good partners to get in here and push him. He’s finished runner up and third place the past two years and I don’t see him settling for anything less than top.”
Last season’s team was one of the largest in school history in terms of roster size, and this year the team will look to continue to establish itself as a program.
“It’s a wrestling program, it’s a series of teams all building up to the varsity program,” Eyler said, saying it starts at a younger age than his program. “Build a pee-wee program, involve the junior high, we need to build it from a young age.”
Eyler believes his team has become a team other teams cannot overlook.
“We’ve really gown over the past several years to be a team not to be taken lightly,” he said. “As a team some of the older guys have gained a lot of confidence over the past several years. They’ve seen us grow from a team with five or six guys to almost a full team now. These are the guys who will buy-in athletically and I think that will push them.”
Helping to further establish the program will be junior heavyweight Dylan Hager, and junior Josh Cook, who just missed out on the district tournament a year ago.
Chris Dane also returns to the program after his first year as a wrestler a season ago, and Eyler believes he is poised for a breakout year after ending the season in his best form of the year.
Eyler also said several freshmen have him excited for the season as potential contributors early in their wrestling careers.
“The young men on my team understand the expectations are high,” Eyler said. “Our upper weights this year are strong, and our upper-middleweights have a lot of depth, which for us means competition among the team that will hopefully force them to work harder.”
A successful season, according to Eyler, will mean seeing improvement from last year’s finish for his veterans and to continue growing his program.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter at aschmidt_RH.