PENDLETON — While the goals haven’t necessarily changed, the route may be a bit more challenging for the Pendleton Heights wrestling team this season.
The number of wrestlers is down slightly this season as a few students from last season decided not to wrestle this year.
Despite the unknowns, Coach Dave Cloud, who is in his 38th season of coaching, said he’s excited to get the season going with the wrestlers who have put in the time and work.
“We’re very young. I think there’s going to be some growing pains for us this year,” Cloud said. “Our numbers are about 35, which includes the girls who are wrestling.
The boys number around the mid-20s, the lowest turnout Cloud has seen.
“I told the kids we’re going to roll with what we have. We’re going to work to make you the best wrestler you can be,” Cloud said.
Cloud said challenging for the sectional title is still on the list as well as defending the Madison County Tourney title.
Four returning wrestlers attended the wrestling Media Day, Nov 5.
One of those, returning junior Jack Todd, is moving up to the 138-pound weight class.
Todd was the sectional champion last season in the 132 class. He was third in the regional and lost in the first round of the semistate.
“I want to go all of the way,” Todd said. “It may sound funny, I only went to semistate one time. That’s truly what I expect for myself. I know how hard I worked over the summer. I love wrestling. I love what I do.”
Junior Jaylen Covington has also moved up, to the 152-pound class.
Covington finished second in the sectional last year in the 138 class and won a Madison County title. “I want to become a better wrestler at all of the tournaments and make memories.”
Also back for the Arabians are Eli Libler at 220 and Hayden Edmundson, 152.
Libler is staying in the same class. Libler started on JV last season but moved up to varsity when another wrestler was injured. “My teammates push me to the best of my abilities.”
Edmundson lost in the first round of the sectional in 2021-22 season.
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“Last year, wasn’t my best, but this off-season, I put in a lot of work. I’m hoping this year is a lot better,” Edmundson said.
Most notable is the growth of girls competing this season.
Eleven girls have already come out and one more may join the team. The girls have wrestled in two competitions already this season. The girls have their own coaching staff headed up by Sean Kirby, who wrestled for Cloud and graduated in 2014.
“We want their own identity if it’s headed toward their own team,” Cloud said.
Elijah Bauer, who also wrestled for Cloud, is the assistant, and Joe Lyons is also working with the team.
Girls wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport in the country and is listed on the Indiana High School Athletic Association as an emerging sport.
Cloud said when the state reaches 150 schools with girls teams, then the IHSAA can sanction the sport. A team can be just one girl. Cloud believes that the sanctioning may come as soon as a couple of years.