Park Hill South might finally have the pieces in place to put together a breakthrough season under coach Dan Dunkin.
Despite a rotating lineup last season, the Panthers went 9-8 in duals but still struggled to consistently compete as a team in the large tournaments on their schedule. Dunkin has two returning state qualifiers in the fold and a bunch of youthful wrestlers who gained important experience, leaving him hopeful of competing for a Suburban Conference Red Division title.
Park Hill South had two state qualifiers in 2015 but just one in 2016.
“We need to learn how to battle with the tough teams,” Dunkin said. “The wins will come in time. I really like the group of kids we have in the room right now. We were young last year and we took our lumps against the good teams. We just need to battle for every takedown and every team point.”
Park Hill South did lose experienced seniors Kaleb Lenhert, Zak Horton, Ring Deng and Travis Fisher. However, only Lenhert and Fisher were in the lineup for Class 4 District 4 competition.
In fact, the Panthers ended up with only eight wrestlers in the lineup that weekend competing for spots in the Missouri State Wrestling Championships.
Jakob Lebar placed third at 160 pounds and then went 0-2 at state to complete his standout freshman season. He finished 19-12.
Dayton Gorosko (113) and Andrew Mikuls (126) — both now juniors — ended up just one match short of reaching state, while Thomas Carter, another junior and a 2015 state qualifier, should be back in the lineup. Andre Anderson, a sophomore, went 19-17 last season, while senior Kevin Nollet was 14-14.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids coming this year with some experience so that’s good,” Mikuls said. “We’ve just got to work hard in the room and make sure practice makes perfect.”
Much of the roster received varsity action at one time or another, and Dunkin expects freshmen Gage Baska (120), Max Rosario (145) and Cameron Gillespie (160) to compete for spots right away this season. With a little consistency, Park Hill South could start to see a push upward after finishing in the bottom third of every tournament last season, including District 4.
“We want to win every dual we can,” Mikuls said. “We’ve got a lot more weight classes filled this year so we’re not going to give up many forfeits. That’s a plus for us. We’ve performed pretty well as a team, but definitely in the tournaments, we can improve individually and I think this year is definitely our year to shine.”