BROOKVILLE — To be clear, the Brookville Raiders wrestling team’s massive run of success over the past several years will be tested this year.
But the Raiders will still be a formidable team to deal with at the district level for sure as head coach Dave Klepfer’s 20-man roster works into shape going into this Saturday’s Sheetz Kickoff Classic in Greenville.
It won’t be a lock at all for the Raiders in District 9. They’ve won five straight dual meet and Class 2A tournament titles, along with seven out of eight dual meet crowns and six of the last seven tournament crowns.
Along with that are 39 D9 champions over the past eight years and a 125-15 dual meet record over the past five seasons. Their last dual meet loss to a D9 foe? The 2013 postseason to Redbank Valley, and it’s been 55 straight on the mat since then.
Expect the Bulldogs, Brockway and Kane in some order to be making a push at the Raiders’ stranglehold on D9.
“We’re young and inexperienced at the varsity level but I feel like we’re coming, a work in progress and I’m excited about how well the team progresses,” said Raiders head coach Dave Klepfer. “It’s definitely a different look for us. The last several years we’ve come in knowing we had a pretty good grip on the district, but this year, we realize we’ll have to work and earn everything we get. And to this point, they’ve been doing that.”
Klepfer relishes his time in the wrestling room and he and the rest of his staff won’t have the luxury of that many big names returning, so it’ll be plenty of work in the trenches. Only nationally-ranked junior heavyweight Colby Whitehill, a Clarion University commit, returns from states where he medaled with an eighth-place finish last March.
But he does have nine wrestlers who made the postseason last year. It won’t be a classic rebuilding situation.
“I’m anxious to get going,” said Klepfer, 221-99 going into his 15th season. “It’s going to be fun watching the progression.”
In the latest flowrestling.org national rankings, Whitehill was No. 15 in the last published rankings on Oct. 31. He earned that after a runner-up finish at the Super 32 this fall and two silver medals at the Fargo Nationals in July and a perfect 14-0 mark in the national freestyle and Greco-Roman Duals in June.
He was 40-7 last year, finishing eighth and he’s 53-13 with two years to go.
“We talked at states and he was obviously disappointed when he beat kid two weeks earlier who finished fourth and he was eighth,” Klepfer said. “He was disappointed about not doing better. He asked what he neded to do to get better and I told him he needed to add 30 pounds in size and he did just that. He found 40 actually and he’s around 280.”
Whitehill is the only returning district champion with seniors Cabe Park and Braden MacBeth, junior Cole LaBenne and sophomore Elliot Park returning regional qualifiers.
Cabe Park won’t likely start the season healthy as he’s recovering from football season He was 20-13 a year ago, finishing second at districts at 120 and getting to within one win of a state berth at regionals.
MacBeth was 25-15 at 170 and he’ll probably be at 182. LaBenne (5-15) and Elliot Park (13-12) had late-season surges after making the postseason lineup. LaBenne was at 160 while Park wrestled at 182. This year, there’s a bit of a log jam at the outset with LaBenne or Park at 170. Either one might have to battle MacBeth or senior Trenton Kramer for a spot at 182.
Senior Jacob Cable was 13-17 at 152 and missed a trip to regionals by one win. He’ll be back at 152 with sophomore Hayden Kramer or junior Cody Hetrick moving up to challenge for that spot depending on who wins the job at 145.
Junior Wyatt Kulik, 10-22 at 132, will be at 138.
Also back are a pair of underclassmen lightweights in junior Parker Fleming and sophomore Cayden Walter. Fleming was 17-17 at 113 while Walter finished 23-10 at 106, getting within one win of a trip to regionals.
Walter, back again at 113, was seeded second at districts before falling short by a win to get to Sharon.
From there, Klepfer has some new faces he’s looking to fill starting spots. Clarion-Limestone transfer Owen Reinsel, a freshman, is the team’s lone 106-pounder. After putting together a strong youth wrestling resume, he finished 1-2 this fall at the Super 32. He’ll be among the better lightweights in the bracket at districts.
Sophomore Zach Keihl and freshman Josh Popson will fill the spot at 120.
At 160, it’ll be either sophomore Wyatt Griffin or senior Bryce Walter. Sophomore Nathan Taylor looks to be the starter at 195. He was 1-4 mostly at 182 last year and saw some junior varsity action as well.
Senior Tanner LaBenne missed last season with an injury, but he’ll start at 220.
Seniors: Cabe Park, Tanner LaBenne, Bryce Walter, Braden MacBeth, Jacob Cable, Trenton Kramer.
Juniors: Colby Whitehill, Wyatt Kulik, Cody Hetrick, Parker Fleming, Cole LaBenne.
Sophomores: Elliot Park, Cayden Walter, Nathan Taylor, Wyatt Griffin, Zach Keihl, Hayden Kramer, Eli Miller.
Freshmen: Owen Reinsel, Josh Popson.