Ranger wrestling shorthanded, but experiencedNovember 19, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
FERDINAND — Forest Park is going into the 2020-21 wrestling season without having all of its weight classes filled — some of these are due to season-ending injuries, while others are due to wrestlers taking online learning for school.
“We should have had the best team we should have had in years,” Rangers coach Craig Recker said. “So, it’s pretty heart wrenching to know we have four upperclassmen that are experienced wrestlers that will not be on the team. It’s going to hurt us team-wise and spot-wise.”
One of the wrestlers Forest Park will not have this year is junior Patrick Recker, Craig’s son, Patrick, was supposed to be one of two returning wrestlers to make it to the regional round last year, having done so in the 120-pound class.
But Patrick’s absence will open the door for another regional qualifier in Travis Haug, who is moving down from the 126-pound class to the 120-pound class this year.
“I think it’s going to set him up for a very good postseason,” Craig said. “If he can stay healthy, Travis is going to be a very strong 120-pounder in Southern Indiana anyways, I know that.”
He added that Haug is “by far” going to be the leader of this year’s Rangers. Craig likes how hard Haug worked in the offseason, and even though Forest Park won’t have every spot filled this season, he still likes the wrestlers he’s rolling with. Craig touted the grapplers he has as being experienced.
Craig has penciled in senior Isaac Fuhrman for the 126-pound class. He told the Herald on Wednesday that Fuhrman worked hard in the offseason and has experience, but others were ahead of him in his weight class last year. The Rangers will go with fellow senior Dylan Niehaus in the 132-pound class.
Forest Park will also trot out some underclassmen in its lineup this year. The Rangers are looking at freshman Cody Brames in the 106-pound class this year, and sophomore Jake Dooley in the 145-pound class. Craig told the Herald that the Rangers will likely have a freshman in the 138-pound class, but he wasn’t sure which one.
“They’re experienced wrestlers in the sense that they’ve wrestled for years through the grade school and junior high programs,” he said. “They’re freshmen, but they’re bringing a little bit of experience to the mat.”
They also might have a freshman wrestle in the 152-pound class. Juniors Ethan Beckman and Austin Hoppenjans are slotted for the 160 and 170-pound classes, respectively. Forest Park does not have anybody at a weight class higher than 170, and Craig they’ll also forfeit the 113-pound class this year.
However, having a hard time filling weight classes is nothing new for Forest Park.
"Just because we’re low on numbers doesn’t mean we can’t be competitive," Craig said. "It’s still going to be very difficult to win on the board, I realize, but I think we maybe ought to be competitive just because I’ve got some really good and solid kids.”
His goal is to have all of his upperclassmen get out of the sectional. The Pocket Athletic Conference, however, might be tougher than the sectional and regional, for the most part. Craig thinks Haug represents the best chance of Forest Park having a conference champion. The PAC expanding doesn't help matters either.
Craig called the PAC tough before, but now he calls it "brutal."
"If you're after competitiveness, it's going to be there, let's just put it that way," he said with a chuckle.
Speaking of competitiveness, the Rangers will try to show just that in Saturday's season opener at the Bedford North Lawrence Invite.
"The single word I'm going to be pushing this weekend is aggressive," Craig said. "We want to be aggressive, we want to be going after them instead of them going after us. If we stay aggressive and keep pushing forward, I like our chances."
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