LAPEL — Lapel wrestling is full speed ahead this season with new head coach John Morris.
Morris stepped in to fill the vacancy after former head coach Jake Stilwell took the head football coaching position at Shenandoah.
While Morris is no stranger to wrestling, having coached at the middle school and in youth wrestling, the head coaching position at Lapel wasn’t on his radar.
Until it was.
His son Hunter Morris, who graduated in 2019, wrestled, and son Grant is a senior this season on the team.
Sean Kirby, assistant coach under Stilwell, was unable to accept the position. Grant and John spoke about the situation. The Bulldogs were four weeks out from the beginning of practice and still needed a coach.
“I’ve been around wrestling my whole life, but never coached high school before,” John Morris said. “It’s not something I planned. It’s definitely a new venture.”
While new to the position, John Morris has full support of his team, parents and former wrestlers, son Hunter and former Bulldogs wrestler Sparky Manis, who will be helping out.
“They have quite a bit of mat knowledge,” Coach Morris said. He added that Gary Pitcock will also help the Bulldogs this season.
Twelve are out for the team this year, and nearly half of those have seen previous regional action. Returning senior Grant Morris, juniors Alan Buzan and Bruin White, and sophomore Braken Little all made the trip to the regional last year. Senior Kyle Shelton was a regional qualifier the previous year.
Coach Morris is optimistic those wrestlers can repeat this season.
“The intensity in the room is tremendous, and these kids are working super hard,” Morris said. “To equal or even better the number of regional qualifiers would be great.”
As of now, the Bulldogs will be short a few weight classes, but Morris is undeterred in what he wants for the team.
“You want improvement every day as the season goes on, and (to) have them peaking at the right time. I have super high hopes for all of these wrestlers.”
Morris is used to being on the sidelines cheering his sons on, but this season, when he steps onto the floor for the first time as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Morris said it will be a different story.
“I’ll be super nervous,” he said.
However, Morris knows he has the full support of everyone.
“I have a deep connection to these kids and have known most of them their whole lives. The success of the program is very important to me.”
He said everyone is very dedicated to Lapel wrestling.
The Bulldogs open their season at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20 at Elwood. Their home opener is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 22 against Hamilton Heights.
Schedule follows roster below.
Date Opponent Time
Nov. 20 at Elwood Invitational 8:30 a.m.
Nov. 22 vs. Hamilton Heights 6 p.m.
Nov. 29 at Anderson 6 p.m.
Dec. 4 Maconaquah Super Duals 8:30 a.m.
Dec. 8 at Alexandria 6 p.m.
Dec. 18 at Madison County Tourney (PH) 9 a.m.
Dec. 23 at ECIC Tournament (Jay County) 9 a.m.
Jan. 4 at Knightstown/Centerville/Union City 6 p.m.
Jan. 8 at Guerin Catholic Invitational 9 a.m.
Jan. 15 Neil Muse Invitational (Lapel) 9 a.m.
Jan. 19 at Daleville 6 p.m.
Jan. 29 Elwood Sectional 9 a.m.
Feb. 5 at Pendleton Heights Regional 9 a.m.
Feb. 12 at New Castle Semistate 9 a.m.
Feb. 18 at IHSAA state finals TBD
Feb. 19 at IHSAA state finals TBD