BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Grapplers are gearing up to take down the competition as they head into meets this week.
The Clarkston Varsity Wrestling team, ranked tenth in Division 1, has a good mix of returning coming back from the 2018-2019 season where they finished in the Elite Eight in the MHSAA Division 1 Team State Championship.
“Our line up is pretty balanced. The good thing is the kids have been working hard all off season, and we’ve got some kids who are going to step up,” said Joe Wood, head coach. “I don’t think we will miss a beat. We graduated quite a bit of seniors. We will obviously miss those kids, but this group has taken the bull by the horns and started working hard. I am impressed with how this team has come together.”
He added finishing in the quarterfinals last year motivated the athletes during the off season.
“Anytime you make the team state tournament, people want to do it again,” Wood said. “You don’t want to be the group that doesn’t get to go. They all want to go so it motivates them to get there and be a part of it. They have the desire to go and do it.”
But getting to the state tournament isn’t the main goal for Wood and his assistant coaches.
“Our number one goal is helping these boys become quality young men,” he said.
Returning seniors include Frank Davis, Nick Lacroix, Jacob Jones and Presley Pearce.
“We have a really large group of good quality seniors who we expect to contribute,” said Wood.
Returners also include juniors Ashton Anderson, Grady Castle and Dru Martin.
“Ashton was a state placer two years ago,” said Wood. “We have high expectations for him. He could do really well. Dru was a starter for a lot of last year. We expect big things from him.”
Castle finished last season qualifying for the individual state tournament at Ford Field.
“He will lead the charge,” Wood said.
New to the line up is freshman Auggie Anderson, joining his brother Ashton. They are nephews of state champions Nick and Nate Vandermeer.
“We are excited for him to be on the team,” Wood said.
The Wolves open the season on Wednesday against Warren Woods Tower, ranked six in Division 2.
“They are tough,” said Wood. “They are really good. They are really well-coached. They have a returning state champion. They have a quality program, and they always put tough kids on the mat. We are just preparing for that. Nothing like starting them out in the fire – that’s kind of how we do it. We are firm believers iron sharpens iron. We test our guys regularly in competition and in practice. We put them out there against the best – that’s how kids grow. It’s how we get better. They start to figure things out.”
The Wolves head to Howell on Saturday for the Herm Wilkinson Classic, 9 a.m.
The Wolves head to the Oakland County Tournament at Lake Orion on Dec. 20, at 4 p.m., and Dec. 21, at 9 a.m.
“We have to defend our title,” said Wood. “We won it last year. The difference this year is Detroit Catholic Central is bringing their varsity team to the tournament. They were state champs last year, and they are ranked No. 1 going into this year. We look forward to it. We don’t shy away from it.”
Clarkston opens 2020 with the Detroit Catholic Central Invite on Saturday, Jan. 4.
“It is probably the toughest tournament in the state,” Wood added.
The Wolves head to Hudson two weeks later for another tournament.
“It will be fun for the boys,” said Wood. “There is some really good competition.”
BY WENDI REARDON PRICE