By Ben Murphy
“We have a lot of talent in the 160-to-189 pound weight classes,” sixth year head coach Kyle McKay said. “There is going to be some great wrestling from returning wrestlers competing for those weight classes. We are voiding five weight classes right now and that is going to make it difficult to win matches but with a pin to win philosophy we can still make a good showing.”
Returning for Clare are seniors Brandon Ayris (171, two-time state qualifier, eighth place in state last year), Logan Emery (160, two-time state qualifier), Michael Evers (125), Bob Green (285), Tyler Orwig (215), Chris Ayris (152), Braxton Gomez (145), Anthony Martin (no class listed), juniors Brenden Hensley (215, regional qualifier), Eric Litke (171), Zach Betzer (152) and Steven Bentley (160).
McKay mentioned team captains Emery, Brandon Ayris and Evers as team leaders.
New to the team are seniors Alyssa Bober (119), Bridget Wade (112), juniors Brock Melius (140) and Jacob Stickler (189) and freshmen Wonjun Lee (171, South Korea exchange student), Hart Smalley (189) and John Splitter (152).
Despite the lack of numbers in several weight classes, the coach isn’t letting his expectations drop.
“We want to win a conference championship and a district championship,” McKay said. “Our goal is to put a banner in our high school gym.”
Jack Pine Conference wrestling juggernaut Roscommon is expected to lead the league again, according to McKay.
“Roscommon is always tough every year no matter what,” he said. “I think Meridian is also going to be really strong this year.
I see it being a close finish between Rosco, Meridian and Clare for the JPC title.”
Clare opened its season at Montabella on Saturday.
Hensley (215) led the Pioneers with a first place finish by going 5-0 on the day while Green (285), Smalley (189) and Brandon Ayris all took second with one loss apiece.
Taking third place with 3-2 records were Evers (125) and Emery (160).
In the junior varsity bouts Bentley (171) went 5-0 for a first place finish, Litke (152,160) went 4-0 and took first while Chris Ayris (152) went 4-1 to come in second.
Clare hosted a quad-meet on Wednesday and competes at the Joe Loren Invitational at Chippewa Hills on Saturday.