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NTL WRESTLING: BRADLEY BELIEVES ATHENS WILL BE COMPETITTIVE IN 2021-22 (2021-12-11)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS "” The numbers aren't quite where Athens wrestling coach Shawn Bradley would like them, but he believes the Wildcats will be competitive in 2021-22.

(Athens hosts the annual Jarvis Tournament today to open its 2021-22 season.)

"We started with 20, we're at 18 right now. It's not terrible, but not where we want to be," said Bradley. "We had a couple kids from last year not come out, so that hurt's a bit, but we'll do the best with what we have."

106: The Wildcats won't have anyone at 106 to start the season, but freshman Keaton Sinsabaugh will likely fill the spot later in the season.

"Keaton hasn't wrestled in a couple of years, but he's working hard, and doing a good job," said Bradley.

113:  Sinsabaugh and sophomore Mason Vanderpool will see time at 113 early in the season, but returning state runner-up senior Gavin Bradley will likely be there by the end of the season.

"Gavin wrestled his butt off all summer," said Shawn Bradley. "He wrestled 80-plus matches ... he went to Fargo, went to Disney, went to Pa. Freestyle States, so he put his work in to get  better in all three positions.

"He is ready to go after his state title," added Bradley.

120 / 126: Bradley and Vanderpool could flip-flop between 120 and 126 early in the season.

132: Senior Daniel Horton returns to the program after a year off, and will likely man the 132-pound spit.

"He's a great athlete, and works hard," said Bradley.

138: "It gets a little sticky at 138," said Bradley. "We have two of our best kids there - senior Kaden Setzer and junior Jake Courtney - and they will wrestle off this week.

"It's a good problem to have ... they will push each other to get better," he added.

145: Setzer or Courtney will bump up to 145 early on, "but will probably both be at a lower weight eventually," said Bradley.

145 / 152: Seniors Gavin McGrath and Lucas Forbes, and freshmen Keegan Congdon and Landon Kizer are all options at 152.

160: Senior Karter Rude will man the 160-pound weight class.

"He is working his tail off," said Bradley. "He's a good football player and a good baseball player ... he's always done well wrestling, but I think it might be a little bit different this year. I think he's going to take the next step.

"He's a little light for 160, so he could end up (at 152), but that's up to him," added Bradley.

170:  Senior Cameron Whitmarsh returns to the program after a year away, and will man the 170-pound spot.

"Cameron is a good athlete," said Bradley. "He'll do well for us."

189: Senior Collin Rosh will wrestle at 189.

215: Freshman Caleb Nason will wrestle at 215.

"Caleb (Nason) is going to surprise some people - he has a big motor," said Bradley. "He's dropped some weight to make 215, and is doing well.

"He placed at PJWs last year, which is a big deal," added Bradley.

285: Sophomore Josh NIttinger will man the 285-pound spot for the Wildcats.

"Josh has improved," said Bradley. "He is a good athlete

"We have two big kids up there pushing themselves, plus they have some big, old coaches in the room that help them out a little bit," added Bradley.

Duals are not the priority for Bradley, but he thinks the Wildcats will be just fine.

"I think we'll fill out our line-up eventually," he said. "We'll have to mix-and-match. Usually our studs have to step up and win big matches, and they do.

"We'll put our good kids against theirs and see what happens," noted Bradley.

"It's good to win dual meets, but it's not the end of the world if we lose them," he added. "We want our kids to peak come February."

Aside from Gavin Bradley, coach Bradley expects several other grapplers to make some postseason noise.

"Jake (Courtney) and Kaden (Setzer) worked their butts off this summer," said Bradley. "They got a ton of matches in, and they were in the room consistently.

"Mason (Vanderpool) is looking good right now. He didn't do as much work in the offseason as we would have liked, but he's working hard now.

"Karter (Rude) is a good three-sport athlete, so he was focusing on other sports, but he's working hard right now," continued Bradley. "Plus, we have those two heavyweights who could take a step forward."

"And, we've had kids in the past who weren't in this discussion in the preseason, like Alex West, who stepped up," Bradley added. "We have kids like Collin Rosh and Cameron Whitmarsh, who could step up and shock some people. They have the coaching and the resources to get there if they want to, they just have to work."

Bradley also believes a rugged schedule, which kicks off with the Jarvis Tournament Saturday and the Athens Duals on Dec. 22, will have his team prepared for the postseason.

"We'll be at Winter Mayhem at IUP, which is a 60-team tournament. ... the next weekend we'll be at  New Oxford Tournament, which has 50 teams," said Bradley. "We'll finish the season at the Bedford Tournament.

"We are in three meat-grinder tournaments," he noted.

"(Assistant coach) Jay (White) does a great job with our schedule," said Bradley. "It gives our kids the opportunity to wrestle some of the best in the state."

AROUND THE NTL
"Canton is definitely the team to beat," said Bradly.

"We had a good match with Canton last year. It stunk that it was before Christmas ... obviously they have a good group of athletes, most of their football team are wrestlers.

"They are going to be tough to beat. We need kids to step up ... we need a Karter Rude to beat a Riley Parker, thing likes that to happen.

"The other team to watch is Towanda," noted Bradley. "They are going to be young, but they're going to be good.

"Towanda's freshmen class this year is crazy-good. Last year, they may have been the best junior high team in the State, not just the NTL," added Bradley. "I expect big things from them this year, and in the years to come."

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