Letterman Tyler Leonard placed sixth at state last year
To the superstitious 13 is a bad number. But as Derek Greening coaches the Hannibal High School wrestling team for the 13th winter, he can't help but feel fortunate about the level of talent he has out this season.
The Pirates return a total of seven state qualifiers from last season's team, which posted a 14-8 record in dual meets in 2017-18. Greening's returning state-tested grapplers include: Chase Kirby (30-16), Vernell Hawkins (13-13), Garrett Ruby (35-11), Jameson White (26-28), Tyler Leonard (49-6, placed sixth at state), Gavin Morawitz (32-22) and Tyler Wilson (23-15).
Mixing in with the returning talent are freshmen Trevor Wilson and Tanner Leonard, both of which Greening says have several years of wrestling experience.
Looking at his team, Greening likes the competition he sees.
"We have several areas where there are kids close to the same weight that can really push each other in the (practice) room," he said.
If the Pirates have a shortcoming it could be that they are light in numbers at the lower weights.
"We do not have very many kids below 126 (pounds), so we will possibly be giving up 12 to 18 points every dual," Greening said.
Despite the fact that Mexico is the defending state team champion in class 2, Greening knows his team will be competitive in the conference.
"Our wrestling conference is very strong," he said. "We have several returning state qualifiers, medalists, placers and even champions."
As for season number 13, it could be a memorable one.
"I think we have the possibility of having a lot of success this year. I feel we have several kids that should perform at a high level especially at tournaments when you are not giving up points for opens in our lineup," Greening said.
Lost from last season's team are a pair of state qualifiers, Kaleb Greening (34-17) and Austin Carroll (39-18, placed sixth at state).