Pats turning to youthful wrestlers

Herald File Photo
Sophomore Brenden Chew (top) is a returning semi-state qualifier for Heritage Hills wrestling this season.


LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills lost a lot off of last year’s team. The Patriots graduated the trio of Sam Scott, Phoenix Rodgers and Beau Heeke — all of whom went to semi-state. Scott and Rodgers both went to state, with the latter finishing in fifth place in the 195-pound class.

Yet, somebody has to fill those voids after they leave, and the Pats have a wrestler in every weight class — with at least two wrestlers in the 152-pound class and up. They also have their go-to grapplers to show leadership to the others.

“We had a vote already for our captains,” Heritage Hills coach Adam Zollman said. “(Junior) Quintin Tempel was hands down our leading vote getter. He’s kind of a quieter guy…He and (fellow junior) Evan Bowling are the strongest kids we’ve got on the team. (He) leads really by example.”

Zollman texted the Herald Wednesday that sophomore Davin Miller was chosen as the other captain. He touted some of his other wrestlers. He praised how hard sophomore Brenden Chew, a semi-state qualifier last year, works in the 145-pound class, and likes what he sees out of some of his freshmen — MaKenzie Smith in the 106-pound class, and Garrett Forler in the 113-pound class. He believes those two to be the most advanced of his freshmen because of their experience.

“This is a year that I don’t have to say, ‘Man, that weight class, we’re kind of struggling,’” Zollman said. “We’ve got everybody filled, and there’s some competition in our upper weights on who’s going to be the varsity kid. I’m excited.”

Heritage Hills doesn’t boast a lot of quantity in its lower weight classes, but according to Zollman, those classes definitely have quality. Smith was an accomplished wrestler when she was in middle school, and the third-year head coach likes that he has a girl on the team. He has no doubt she’ll qualify for the girls regional tournament and girls state tournament.

“You see some females step out on the mat, and people have that assumption,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, she comes out and kicks your tail, you have a little different respect level once that match is over.”

The door opened for Smith in the 106 after sophomore Blake Duttlinger grew six inches in height and put on weight to ascend to the 132-pound class. Zollman noted that Duttlinger gets after it in the weight room during class.

Zollman also likes that Forler beat some quality competition in middle school and some wrestlers during the summer, and he touted junior Braxton Hays coming back in the 126-pound class as “good.”

“Braxton is Braxton,” he said. “He’s got his own funky style that it’s freaky. He’s one of those guys that you’re like, ‘No, no, no, no — yes, yes, got it, alright, sweet.’”

He thinks freshman Brody Ford will shock some people in the 195 after Rodgers was the semi-state champion in that same class last year. Zollman noted that Ford is very strong and fun to watch. He predicts his freshman will do well in that spot.

“He’s an animal,” Zollman said. “I mean, he’s just a kid that he’s 100 miles an hour and has the power behind him at the same time.”

Another freshman, Caden Keeton, will take Scott’s place in the 120-pound class. Zollman observed that Keeton never seems to run out of energy, and has a long way to catch up to Scott, but everybody does. He predicts Keeton may struggle with some really good wrestlers in the class, but Zollman thinks he’ll do well in that spot.

The Pocket Athletic Conference has expanded this year, and Zollman notes that Mount Vernon (Posey) has a good team. Washington, meanwhile, isn’t deep, but has good individuals, and he thinks Princeton has some good younger wrestlers coming in.

“I would say we’re top four,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you and be like, ‘We’re champs, we’re going to win it.’ There are going to be some individuals fighting for a championship, but as a team, we’ll fight.”

He thinks the sectional will come down to the Pats, Boonville and Castle. Zollman told his wrestlers that the goal is making it to state, regardless of experience, and they’ll do everything they can to put themselves in the best position for that.

Zollman likened the tournament to a meat grinder with how tough the regional and semi-state meets are, but he thinks Smith, Forler, Chew and Ford represent the team’s best chances to qualify for state. He’s not sure Keeton in the 120 and his heavyweight wrestlers will make it to state this year because they’re still young, but he thinks they’ll be good.

He likes the work ethic his wrestlers have shown, and has no qualms about their conditioning, but added their technique is still young and raw. Zollman doesn’t want to bombard his wrestlers with too much right away, but he does want to take their middle school technique and expand upon it.

The hardest thing Heritage Hills has dealt with this year is that it has yet to have all 28 of its wrestlers in the room — but that’s been due to the pandemic.

Heritage Hills is set to open its season on Saturday by hosting a junior varsity wrestling tournament, and the first dual of the year will be Dec. 1 at Mount Vernon.

“They’re a good team, really good team — got quite a few numbers for them,” Zollman said of the Wildcats. “We’re going to have to execute in each little position. We really talk about three points, four points, five points, six points. ‘What are you get? Are you going to win a decision, major, tech falls or a pin?’ Each point, whether we get it or we don’t give it up could cost the dual for us, or we could win it, too.”

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