By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Last year, Milton-Union wrestling had a pair of state qualifiers.
Entering this season, the amount of state experience the Bulldogs possess tripled.
Both Chase Mayabb and Kamron Paulus return to a Bulldog wrestling team that is adding four freshmen that competed at last year’s junior high state tournament, giving Milton-Union a large crop of young talent to go with its valuable veteran experience this season.
“We’ve got five returning district qualifiers and two state qualifiers, as well as four returning state qualifiers from eighth grade last year,” Milton-Union coach Art Ratcliffe said. “We’ve got the highest numbers we’ve had in a long time with 24 kids in the program, when we’re usually at 15 to 17, and we have nine seniors on the team. This year, things are looking up for us. Things are finally starting to fall into place.”
Mayabb, a senior, wrestled at 132 last season, while junior Paulus wrestled at 126. Both reached the state tournament and will be looking to get on the podium this season. Joining them will be Kaleb Rue, John Wheelock and Larkin Welbaum, a trio of district qualifiers looking to reach the state level this season.
And while four freshmen — Hunter Ross, Avory Creech, Dylan Schencke and Owen Lewis — will be joining the varsity team, they will be looked at to make an impact right away.
“That state experience on the junior high level is critical, absolutely,” Ratcliffe said.
And with the numbers and experience the Bulldogs have, they’re not setting their sights low when it comes to goals. Their expectations are high.
“One of our main goals is to take the league,” Ratcliffe said of the Southwestern Buckeye League. “That’s definitely one of our long-term goals, as well as to place at least five kids going to state. The possibility is definitely there with the kids I’ve got this year.
“Eaton is always up there on top (of the SWBL). You can never underestimate them. And Franklin has got some great kids. But we do, too. We want to compete for the league title.”
To get there, though, the Bulldogs will need to work hard and come together as a team.
“Even though wrestling is an individual sports, it’s a team goal,” Ratcliffe said. “The kids have got to stay focused on our goals. We need everyone wrestling hard in practice and doing everyone’s part to help each other out.
“We’ve got some kids that have the potential to be great leaders on the team. And that’s what we’re striving for, to become a team.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.