By David Fong
TROY — For years, Doug Curnes felt the numbers crunch — this year, he plans on crunching back.
For the past half-decade, the Troy wrestling coach has struggled to fill his line-up and his practice room with wrestlers. Not even elite grapplers, necessarily — but just warm bodies.
This year, however, the numbers appear to be turning in Troy’s favor — and Curnes is hoping the results will show up on the mats this winter.
“We have 34 guys out for the team this year — which is the most we’ve ever had by at least 10,” Curnes said. “And these are kids who aren’t going anywhere. The kids we’ve got now have phenomenal toughness. I’ve never had a group work as hard as this group has been working. Honestly? I think these kids are tired of getting beat down and want to do something good.”
It all starts at 106 pounds, where sophomore Joe Pascale returns. Last season, Pascale finished second at the Greater Western Ohio Conference meet and sixth at districts, narrowly missing out on a trip to state.
“He is more than motivated to go to state this year,” Curnes said. “He’s a kid you don’t have to worry about showing up every day and giving it everything he has. He wants to get better and he’s going to keep getting better. The sky really is the limit for this kid.”
At 113 will be senior Ben Andrews, while freshman E.J. Morrison will wrestle at 120.
“Something has clicked with Ben Andrews,” Curnes said. “He’s wrestling better than I’ve ever seen him wrestle before. And being a senior at 113 pounds helps, too. E.J. Morrison is a mean kid. We played football this summer as a team-building exercise, and he was going after everybody. He’s a tough kid.”
At 126 the Trojans will have senior Shane Love, while junior Kobe Scott will compete at 132. Both were GWOC placers and district qualifiers last season. Freshman David McGraw also could figure into the mix at either one of those weights, giving the Trojans added depth.
“The nice thing about those guys being so close in weight is they can drill together every day in the practice room,” Curnes said. “They are only going to get better every day by going against one another.”
Junior Justin Mittelstadt will wrestle at 138, while fellow junior Michael McBride also could see time there, should Curnes need to make adjustments in weight classes. At 145 will be senior Frankie Quintero.
“Justin is one of our most improved wrestlers,” Curnes said. “Frankie is more committed and more motivated than I’ve ever seen him. He’s really into it this year. I think he knows that as a senior, this is his last go around and he really wants to make something of it.”
Freshman Shane Shoop will wrestle at 152, while junior Brennin Scherpf will compete at 160.
“Shane Shoop is a kid you are going to be hearing about on the gridiron and on the mats for years,” Curnes said. “He’s like Barry Sanders Junior. His athleticism, his balance and his explosion are all remarkable. Brennin is a kid who really turned it on at the end of last year and was darn near a district qualifier. We hope he can keep that momentum going into this year.”
At 170 will be senior Davin Snyder, while sophomore Race Darrow will wrestle at 182.
“Davin is a kid we need to keep healthy this year,” Curnes said. “He’s more mature and he’s bigger than he has last year. Race Darrow is a kid who we think can do some things for us once we get him down to the right weight.”
Junior Will Brumfield will wrestle at 195, sophomore Christian Nation will compete at 220 and sophomore Cameron Block will be at 285. All three are football players — both Brumfield and Block will be wrestling for the first time in their lives.
“Will has never wrestled before, but he’s a 4.0-plus student with intelligence and is an unbelievable worker,” Curnes said. “Watching him play football told me I was going to love that kid. He’s going to surprise some people. Nation is a kid who can flat out wrestle when he wants to. He was a freshman competing at 220 last year and did pretty well, which says a lot about him.
“Cameron Block is a very, very well-rounded athlete who is already picking up on a lot of heavyweight technique. He’s going to be a good one.”
All of that depth has given Curnes the most positive outlook he’s ever had going into a season.
“We’re finally getting the guys in the room who should be there,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty solid line-up. I’m really looking forward to this season.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong