Wrestling Takes on a New Year
For the four years he was here, Kevin Beck was the face of Atholton wrestling. Beck was a vital part of the team and achieved considerable success throughout his career-he won a state championship his sophomore year and a multitude of other state and county accolades. With his graduation, the team faces somewhat of an identity crisis. However, Junior Brett Kaufman—a three year varsity wrestler— is ready and willing to attempt to plug the hole left by Beck. Kaufman is one of the most experienced wrestlers on the Atholton team; prior to wrestling for the Raiders, he wrestled at the recreational level for three years and wrestled on a travel squad for one year.
“The other major loss was Nathan Kroney, but Kaufman will step up to the plate to try and fill that gap,” said teammate and junior, Matt Peart.
Kaufman has high expectations for this season, but he is not the only talented wrestler on the team this year. Senior Mark Muhlbock, Juniors Ashton Stennet, Emilio Altamirano, and Peart, and Sophmore Jay Johnson all have the ability to make significant contributions to the team.
To many of the members of the squad, this season is seen primarily as a rebuilding year, as they look to improve their standing in the county and state. As individuals, they believe that they are as good as anyone; lack of raw talent is not an issue. In the past, the team had consisted of a large amount of first-time wrestlers, and thus, inexperience proved to be one of the biggest challenges. However, this year’s freshman class has deviated from this trend.
“One positive thing is a lot of the kids that we got this year have some type of wrestling experience or they have the hunger to get better,” said Coach Billups, one of the team’s assistant coaches.
The Atholton wrestlers follow an intense fitness regime that includes running countless laps around the school building and numerous suicides.
“One of the major benefits of wrestling is the physical conditioning. You will be in the best shape of your life. Period. And no other sport can contest with the mental and physical strength needed,” said Peart.
The Raiders will also have to overcome the loss of Junior Brett Rossiter, who wrestled on varsity as a freshman like Kaufman. Rossiter, who suffered from chronic knee problems throughout his first two years at Atholton, underwent surgery on his knee during the fall season and is unable to wrestle this season as a result.
“I remember me and Brett [Rossiter] talking about being captains together once we were juniors. Its too bad it didn’t work out that way,” said Kaufman.
Kaufman has been Rossiter’s teammate since their freshman year, when they wrestled on the travel team together in addition to wrestling for the Raiders.
“I know [the season] would be a lot funnier [with Rossiter],” said Kaufman.
Atholton’s first match of this season was against Centennial on December 8; the Eagles handed the Raiders their first loss of the year, and hopefully the last. However, the Raiders are looking to improve their skills as the season progresses.
The Raiders may be in a state of transition, but they still have the ability to make noise in the county. Though the Atholton wrestlers have their work cut out for them, there are plenty of team members who are willing to step up to the mat and tackle the challenges the team faces this year.