Small on numbers, KR wrestling looks for big success at districts

The Kenton Ridge Cougars took a small group of wrestlers to the Division II sectional tournament. They left with big results.

The Cougars qualified four wrestlers to Friday and Saturday’s D-II district tournament at Wilmington, plus two alternates. It’s another boost for coach Josh Massey and his program, which had just four wrestlers when he took over three seasons ago.

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Junior Bryce Stamps (38-7 at 138 pounds) finished second at the sectional tournament. Freshman Caleb Kennington (34-11, 120) placed third and juniors Kyson Cook (29-8, 126) and Antony Ross (18-21, 152) both placed fourth.

Even without the sectional success this group holds special meaning for Massey. He started coaching them in youth wrestling, coached most of them in junior high and now into high school.

“This is my group,” Massey said. “It’s super emotional with every single one of these kids that’s out there.”

The Cougars’ roster has expanded from four wrestlers three years ago to eight last season and now 11. A large eighth-grade class could enable KR to fill all 14 weight classes next season.

The top four finishers in each weight class qualify for next week’s state championships. The Cougars are in a tough district that features 18-time, defending-state champion Graham, among others. It’s a good challenge for the Cougars.

“They just have to be mentally tough this point of the season. It’s everything you did in the off-season that’s going to come out right now,” Massey said. “Don’t look at records and live in the moment.”

The Cougars were counting on Stamps, Kennington and Cook to qualify for district. That Ross, a second-year wrestler, is joining them is a bonus.

“He surprised everyone on the team. For him to get out in this area, it’s huge,” Massey said. “I’m super proud of him. I’m excited to see how he does.”

Massey hopes the team success encourages more students, and especially football players, to wrestle next season. But wrestling has become a tough sell compared to playing video games or working.

“You don’t have the kids that want to put the extra work in because it’s a long, grueling season. It’s easier to sit at home. It’s hard building numbers,” Massey said. “This group, they’re all best friends. That’s what so great. All these guys are brothers. The unity in the group is bar none. It’s going to be a life-long friendship for them. It’s a bond you can’t put into words. All I can say is it’s special.”

Greenon: The Knights qualified a school-record six to the D-III district tournament in Troy. Senior Blake Potter, who had never stepped onto a mat prior to last season, highlighted the meet with a sectional title at 160.

Northeastern: The Jets send four to the D-III district at Troy. Kyle Kinder (113) enters with 100-plus wins, Codey Taylor is a first-year wrestler at 182, Connor Obee is the team captain at 195 and Nate Sudhoff goes at 220. Kinder and Sudhoff are two-time district qualifiers.

Shawnee: Among the Braves' five D-II qualifiers, Kaleb Reams (106) is a four-time qualifier with 108 career wins and Nick Humphreys (152), a three-time qualifier, enters with 94 career wins.

Springfield: Freshman Cole Yost continues his impressive run of late at 113. He entered the Greater Western Ohio Conference as an alternate seed and placed fourth. At the sectional tournament he surged into the finals and finished runner-up.

Triad: The Cardinals send a pair of sophomores to the D-III district, both sophomores. Coleman Hauck (138) advances for the second time while Blake Boldman (152) goes for the first time.

Roll call: Here's a breakdown of district qualifiers by team. 13 – Graham; 10 – Mechanicsburg; 6 – Greenon; 5 – Tecumseh, Shawnee; 4 – Kenton Ridge, Northeastern, Northwestern, Urbana; 3 – Springfield; 2 – Triad, West Liberty-Salem; 1 – Southeastern.

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