By Todd Rohde~CORRESPONDENT
Over the past several years, the Richmond-Burton wrestling program has been known for its ability to be competitive and successful both as individuals and as a team out on the mat.
The Rockets will once again definitely be experienced and talented from an individual standpoint this year, but they may struggle a bit as a team due to a lack in numbers.
“We should be very tough individually this year, but unfortunately may struggle from a team standpoint due to the smaller numbers out for the program,” ninth-year head coach Bret Wojcik said.
Regardless one thing is for sure and that is that the Rockets will give it their all each and every time that they compete this season and will make their faithful supporters proud of their efforts.
Richmond has deservingly built up a positive reputation for themselves over the years and they will do their best to live up to that quality status.
The Rockets will have some big voids to fill, as they lost five quality seniors to graduations from a season ago. None will be missed more than that of Jack Dechow, who was a two-time State runner-up his sophomore and junior years before going undefeated at 34-0 last season in becoming only the fourth Rocket ever to capture a State title last year when he took home the 182-pound crown.
They also will be without the likes of Brett O’Kane, Matt Ellis, Nick Zelinsky and Jake Pauley.
The Rockets finished in second place within the conference a year ago, as they fell by a mere point to Harvard, They also were very competitive and placed well at many of the tournaments throughout the year including in the postseason.
On the bright side of things, of the 13 wrestlers that the Rockets have out for the program this year, four of them are returning State qualifiers including three of whom placed at the prestigious event. This year’s team consists of four seniors, five juniors and a pair of both sophomores and freshmen including senior Cameron Kennedy and junior Garrett Sutton serving as the team captains.
“As a team we need to set individual goals for each wrestler, as once again we will be much stronger individually than we will be as a team,” Wojcik said. “But our ultimate goal is always to bring back a couple of State medals at the end of the season.”
Kennedy, who will wrestle at 126/132 this year, finished third at State last year, was second at the event in 2011 and sixth in 2010. Sutton on the other hand, who will wrestle at 145/152 pounds this season, was third at State a year ago and a qualifier in 2011.
The Rockets will also be looking for some good things from Garrett’s younger brother Grant Sutton and Mike Hrdlicka. Sutton, a sophomore wrestling at 120 pounds, finished fifth last season at State as only a freshman and Hrdlicka, a junior taking to the mat at 138 pounds, was a State qualifier in 2011.
“Our biggest strength will be the leadership from Garrett and Cameron, as they are both hard workers on the mat and very technically sound from all positions,” Wojcik said. “My hope is that the other guys will feed off of their work ethic, as we only have 4-5 guys with true everyday varsity experience.”
As far as the conference goes this year, the Rockets will look to wrestle as hard as they can every day and see where they end up in the standings at the end of the season. The top teams to watch out for this year in the league will be Harvard and Burlington-Central.
The Rockets began practicing Nov. 5th and had been concentrating on techniques and strategies early on, while now they are picking up the tempo and intensity in their efforts.
“I would like to see us continue to build on our success and tradition of being a quality program over the years,” Wojcik said. “We like to build not only strong wrestlers on our team, but also strong men both on and off the mat. In order to have a good program, you need good kids to start with and I think that we have that at R-B.”