2020-21 Winter Preview: Joplin Wrestling
2020-21 Winter Preview: Joplin Wrestling
By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Head coach Jeremy Finley knew his second season at the helm would be a rebuilding year for the Joplin wrestling team.
The Eagles had just two juniors and seven sophomores in their lineup for the Class 4 District tournament in February. Out of that group they had one state qualifier.
The good news for Joplin is virtually the entire team is back this year and the Eagles hope to take a step forward this winter.
“We had zero seniors out on the team and I think we had three juniors so the rest were sophomores and freshman we were starting on the varsity level,” Finley said. “It was a growing season for us. We’re still going to be young this year with only two returning starters that are going to be seniors. Most are going to be sophomores and juniors with a few pretty good incoming freshman. We’re looking to make a little bit of a leap this year in the COC.”
Junior Brayden Thomas is the team’s returning state qualifier; he wrestled at 182 pounds last year and finished with an 11-13 record. He placed fourth at the district tournament and is still relatively new to the sport.
“I think he’s only been wrestling since junior high,” Finley said. “We look for him to make some leaps and bounds this year and bring a lot of our young guys with him. They start seeing other kids have success and they want to be a part of that. They want to be a part of something special and a part of some wins.”
This year’s seniors are Reese Macios and Josiah Vaughn. Macios was a 126-pounder who wrestled 18 matches and Vaughn was at 132 pounds where he went 11-19.
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Those two have been a part of Joplin wrestling for a long time, Finley said, and while Macios has flown under the radar a little bit, Vaughn is set to be a four-year starter.
“We want to send those seniors out on a high note and it’s going to be up to them,” he said. “They’ve been working hard in the offseason.”
Junior Rocky Walker led the team in wins last year with a 13-19 record at 120 pounds. He’s joined by returning classmates Jack Stanley (138 last year), Brenden Mynatt (160), Gunner Price (220) and Zach Harthan (285), as well as Thomas. All of them wrestled in the district tournament.
Finley said Walker will be a “good one” and hasn’t missed a single day of offseason workouts. He came up one match short of the state tournament as a sophomore and Finley looks for him to be a state qualifier this year. And Mynatt earned the team’s newcomer award last year and improved throughout the season. He looks every bit of 160 or 170 right now, Finley said, and looks explosive. He’s another wrestler the coach expects to qualify for state.
Price will battle it out with senior Scott Lowe for the 220-pound spot.
Junior Jack Stanley, a 138-pounder, is another Eagle who saw a lot of varsity time. He wrestled in 28 matches. He’ll be one of the team’s leaders and another solid contributor. Junior Aiden Short is another returning starter in the junior class; he’ll wrestle at 170 this year.
Brothers Draven and Drew VanGilder could be big contributors in the upper weights. Draven was 12-4 at 182 pounds and Drew was 11-12 at 152 last year as freshmen. Finley expects Drew to wrestle either as a true 152-pounder this year or at 160, while Draven should be around 160 or 170.
“We’re looking for big things from both those brothers,” Finley said. “They’re very competitive on and off the mat.”
Sophomore Alex Short returns after posting an 8-12 record at 106 pounds; he’ll wrestle at 113 this year.
Samuel Melton, a freshman, will wrestle at 106 pounds and could turn some heads pretty quick, according to Finley.
“He’s a really good kid and you just can’t keep him off a wrestling mat,” he said. “He wants to workout all the time. Does all the things in the spring. He wrestles year round. We look for some big things from him.”
Finley said the coaching staff expects the team to take a step forward this year as the roster matures, but it depends on how hard the Eagles work early in the season.
“The good thing is they expect that out of themselves, too,” he said.