By Kyle Daubs

The Charleston wrestling program took a step in the right direction last year.

Their season featured the first female state qualifier in school history, while many freshmen and sophomores competed well toward the end of the year.

Now, head coach Mike Stanley wants to see the development take another step further. 

With a strong senior captain in place, as well as some hungry wrestlers looking to make the sectional, or even state, the Trojans will hit the mats to compete to the best of their abilities. 

Gone from the Trojans was the team’s lone boy sectional qualifier in Josh Wiley, who was 20-8 last season. Stepping up will be senior captain Alec Sellers, who will compete in the 160-pound weight class. Early on in the season, Stanley believes that Sellers could make a memorable run his senior season. 

“I expect him to be able to advance further through the State series than he ever has to this point,” said Stanley. “He put in quite a bit of time in the weight room during the off-season to increase his strength and conditioning as did Ben, Marcellx, and Stormy, who all lifted through the football program.”

Stanley is referring to a mix of sophomores that competed as freshmen last season. Isaiah Lutrell competed at 106/113 pounds last year. Ben Coffey will be pegged to compete at 145 pounds, while Marcellx Boling (225), and Stormy Hughes (285) all return after starting last year. 

“Our team has quite a few returning freshmen and sophomores that should show improvements from last year’s outcomes,” said Stanley. “Isaiah didn’t find much success regarding wins last season, I think he picked up some solid fundamentals to be our most improved wrestler this year in that regard. Ben Coffey, Marcellx Boling, and Stormy Hughes all fell short of reaching the Sectional Tournament last year, but I believe that they have all gained and will continue to gain the experience and fundamentals they need to make that happen this year.”

Junior Chet Strader is not on the roster this season.

“Chet has as much potential as anybody on our team to find success in this sport and, as a coach, it’s hard to see him deciding not to come back,” said Stanley. “At the same time, I know that wherever Chet puts his energy he is going to find success and I am very proud of the effort he has given in and out of the room while he has been a part of this team. He is an outstanding athlete, and more importantly and an outstanding person.”

On the women’s side, there could be some great moments this season.

Gone from last year is state qualifier Maddie Bryant.

But junior Mackensie Williams returns to compete in the 145-pound weight class. She came up short of qualifying for the state tournament but could make a run this year. 

Also back is Bryant’s sister, Alaynia, who was left off of the team midway through last season, but appears to be ready to make a run at a state championship this season. 

“We will again be looking for success from our female wrestlers and we are seeing the greatest growth on our team in this area,” said Stanley. “Alyania Bryant will be competing for us this year and also has a legitimate chance to place and possibly win the tournament. Alaynia has a long history in the youth program and has also joined many traveling teams that compete across state lines and nationally. Alaynia has found success at all levels she has wrestled and I expect no difference as she competes through the girls’ state series this season.”

Stanley is very excited about the direction of the girls’ program which will also feature two newcomers to give the wrestling team four female wrestlers. 

“We also have several other freshman and sophomore girls joining us this season, including freshman Morgan Smallhorn, and sophomore Racheale Colman, who have little or no mat experience, but are quite strong and athletic and should improve exponentially as they gain this experience,” said Stanley. 

Smallhorn won her first match at 126 pounds earlier this week.

Stanley said that the parent-coach support will be instrumental to this season’s success, as well as the future of the program. Stanley said that the numbers at the youth program are growing and he is excited to see the program take another step forward. 

“As a team, we are still young and have little to no experience coming up through the youth program this season,” said Stanley. “That said, the youth program is growing tremendously and the numbers are higher than they have been since I joined this wrestling community. This is in large part to the efforts of head coach Jeremy Yost, who is very committed to making it happen. He is running an extremely consistent and organized youth program that keeps parents involved and keeps everybody excited. The parent coaches assisting in the room and at competitions are also an integral part of this growth. It is very encouraging to see and be a part of and in time these efforts will no doubt be recognized through the high school program as well.”