Young wrestlers prepare to take the mat

by Todd Brooks

With only one senior, the Comanche wrestling team will be looking to overcome some youthfulness as they prepare to battle in 2023-24.

On the boys side, Comanche returns two state qualifiers in Legend Yates and Gage Jessen, while on the girls’ side, Brook West will be looking to move up a step or two on the podium this year.

“Getting into the top 10 would be a realistic goal for us this year,” said Casy Rowell, head coach. “Anything above that in the top five would be pretty nice. But, my goal really just to get better with this group because it’s such a young group, but I know that if we keep them together, we have potential to really be good and I’m trying to preach that message.”

Rowell emphasized though that he is not counting them out of anything this year.

“One thing I learned about the Noah (Presgrove) situation is nothing is promised,” Rowell said. “Sometimes your best year may be right now, so next year is not promised and you don’t know how things are going to turn out. We’ve got to make the most of what we’ve got right now, but it’s also going to be exciting.”

The freshman class is the largest class on the high school team.

“We get them twice a day for junior high and high school, so it’s like two-a-days all year long and that helps,” Rowell said. “We’ve got some of those key guys like Legend, Gage, Erik (Roy) and Kanon (Clift). They’ve already proven theirselves to me and I think this is their year to go out and get theirselves on the podium and those four guys can do it. I feel really good about how our year is going to go. It’s not easy, but I believe in those guys.”

Another positive this year is the Indians should have every weight class filled, something they missed out on last year that cost them crucial team points by forfeit.

“We just got another heavyweight in today,” Rowell said. “I don’t know when he’ll be ready, but he should be able to help us out by the end of the year. So, that’s kind of like the last piece of our puzzle. We have a 106-pounder and a 113-pounder, which is something we’ve missed the past couple of years. It’s hard to find them small guys, but we got three of them this year.”

With a strong senior class graduated in 2023, Rowell will be looking to his younger wrestlers to step up in that role, particularly the four more experienced ones.

“They’re not used to being in that role and they’re going to have to try to learn because that’s what I see with this team - if we don’t get some leadership, we could go the other way, but if we can get some guys to step up for us, those other guys will follow in the right direction.”

The girls program is slowly growing. Last year, the high school girls had two to three wrestlers and this year there are five in the high school program and seven more waiting in the wings in the junior high program.

Two key returners for the Lady Indians are West and Celina Quezada. West won a junior high state championship last year, won first place at the high school regional and finished third in the state where all classes were lumped together. This year, there will be a small school class and a large school class.

“We’re building and it looks good,” Rowell said. “If they will buy in like Brook and Celina, I won’t have to worry about them. They will do whatever I ask them to do and they train hard. They want to win.”

Both West and Quezada want to wrestle in college, so Rowell knows he will get the work and effort out of them.

“The other ones haven’t really committed like that,” Rowell said. “They are all capable. They are taking beatings from these other girls, but they are getting right back up and going after it and that’s going to make them better if they have the right attitude.”

With West and Quezada as the only team members, it still put Comanche in the top 10 in girls rankings.

“That’s huge,” Rowell said. “The big picture is in a year or two we might have a state championship team and I really believe that because they’re not a lot of other teams out there to me that are building that way.”