NEWPORTâ€“After a seventh place finish in their return to full time varsity status last year, the North Country wrestling team is hoping that this season's team can build on that success and do even better during the 2012-2013 campaign.
"I think we have a good chance of doing a lot better this year than last," said coach Chris Mandigo. "Last year we won a couple of dual meets, this year I expect to do a lot better."
Last season the team had only a handful of wrestlers on their active roster, which cost them points in tournaments due to the inability to field a competitor in a multitude of weight classes.
With ten members slated for the active roster once they get all of their practices, that should not be a problem.
Said Mandigo, "By our home meet, we should have enough wrestlers to fill our roster, because that is the big deal. If you can fill your roster and your newer kids get a win here and there and the kids you expect to win do their thing, you can't help but do well."
A big part of the increase in numbers Mandigo believes is the addition of transportation options that were not afforded the athletes last year.
"I am seeing more kids now because we have late bus capability. More young kids that wouldn't have come if they didn't have transportation, and now I expect to see the program really start to grow and take off."
Seniors Trevor Roberts and Mackenzie Steele are the time-tested leaders of the team.
"I have been coaching Trevor since the sixth or seventh grade and he has a lot of drive and motivation, and he is good at helping the newer people. This is his year to really push himself and I expect him to really well this year," Mandigo said. "Mackenzie, she is a really good wrestler and I expect her to do well too. She has been wrestling all summer, and I expect her to win a lot of matches."
Technically speaking, Roberts is the only NCU senior, as Steele wrestles for Lake Region and trains with the team, but her input and knowledge is a key ingredient in the training and preparation of the team.
Steele was not in attendance when I arrived at the building, but in a statement this summer she said, "This year Trevor and I are going to be leading the team and there is a pretty positive attitude about a girl from another school help lead the team."
"I think this years team will do pretty well," said Roberts, who will be wrestling in the 152 pound class.
As the coach said, Steele, along with Roberts, have been active all summer, organizing their own training schedule at IROC and participating in out of state matches, so expect good things from the team's elder-statesman/woman.
Mandigo also believes that some of the younger folks on the roster could turn a few heads this year as well.
"Colin Brennan did some wrestling with Trevor and Mackenzie over the summer. We got Dylan Brown back and he placed 6th at States as a freshman, so he will do pretty good. Adrian LaRose is a freshman who will wrestle in the 170 pound weight class. He does not have a lot of experience with any of the moves, but he has a wicked drive and good strength and speed, and I think he could win a handful of matches."
The team kicks off their season at the St. Johnsbury meet this Saturday at 10:00, and will host their lone meet of the season on December 18th at IROC with weigh in at 5:00 and the matches beginning at 6:00.