Cyclone grapplers aiming high in new season

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   With as many as six to eight contenders for state qualification, the prospects for coach Bill Potter's Elizabethton Cyclone wrestling team look promising indeed as the 2002-03 season opens.
   "We could have as many as eight kids qualify for the state," said Potter. "Overall, I think we will be competitive in all weight classes. We only forfeit one weight class and that's the heavyweight class. There aren't any Justin Fair's for us this year. The football coaches all support our program, but we just haven't had any of the big kids want to try wrestling."
   All other weight classifications are filled - with some still up for grabs in competition - so in that respect Potter feels comfortable heading into the season.
   In the 130-135 lb. class is Andy Ross who Potter called, "My best wrestler. Andy will bounce between 130 and 135. At 130 I think he could be one of the top four ranked wrestlers in this region. He's very competitive.
   Andy won 36 matches last year and performed at a high level in most of his matches. In fact, I think all of his losses were to championship-type guys."
   In the 119 class in Andy Hobbs and at 112 will be Tyler Ross, both are seasoned and have some experience and that will be something Potter counts on come match time.
   The lightweight division (103-112 lbs.) grappler will be Martin Nevarez.
   The 125 lb. grappler will be John Ross who fell one match short of qualifying for the Region tournament. "Ross fell just short last year, and I think that has him thinking of going the distance this year. It's a good solid weight class overall and I think it will be a good weight class for him."
   Listed in the 135 lb. class is Cory Henson. "He should be a decent competitor. Right now he's on a learning curve. He was solid at the Boone meet."
   David Salyers could fluctuate between the 135 and 140 lb. classes, and Potter likes Salyers' competitiveness saying, "He could be a real solid performer. He vastly improved as the season went on last year and his work ethic is solid. He's gaining maturity and as he gains experience I will expect big things from him."
   Pat Jenkins won 35 matches last season at 145 pounds and he fell just one match shy of qualifying for the State tournament. "Jenkins is the kind of kid that just gets out on the mat and performs at a high level. He placed in three tournaments - two of which were the toughest tournaments to place in."
   Another 20-match winner for Betsy is Mitch Cornett at 150 lbs. "Mitch was solid as a freshman. He has put on weight and has gotten more size to him in the weight room. His confidence level could be shaky, but he has good physical attributes."
   Brian Bradshaw will compete in the 160 lb. classification - down from last season when he wrestled in the 189 lb. class - but Potter thinks he can handle the reduction in weight saying, "Bradshaw went down to 171 a couple times last year and I think 160 will be a solid weight for him. I think he could be in the top two or three in the Region at that class."
   Michael Eggers is in his third season of mat work at 171 lbs. "Eggers could go up to 189, but I want him to stay at one weight to gain consistency. I expect him to have a solid season, and he stands a good chance to come around by the halfway point of the year. He needs confidence, but has ability."
   The last two classifications the Cyclones will have a competitor in are the 189 and 215 lb. classes, and they will be manned by Jarrett Taylor and David Hardy respectively.
   "Hardy was exposed to wrestling in Junior High," said Potter. "He has been a real pleasant surprise. He just manhandled his opponent in nearly every match. He could sneak into the State tourney.
   Taylor impressed me with his ability to battle and shows a lot of desire. He has worked hard and performed well."
   Overall the outlook for the Betsy grappling squad looks solid as the Cyclones open match play tonight with an away match at Maryville Heritage where a round-robin tournament will consist of Elizabethton, Maryville Heritage and Greenback.
   "If we can get a couple of guys to put us in the top three or four in the Regional tournament we stand a good shot of advancing. This is the most weight classes we have had filled here in some time. We won't have to forfeit but one or two classes in each match."