WOODWARD — W-G wrestling head coach Dave Smeltzer did not mince words when discussing his approach to the season: "I preach hard work."
"Sometimes I think the guys get a little sick of hearing it, but I believe hard work is the key to success," he said. "Talent can take you a long way, of course, but you put talent against talent and the one who has worked harder and is better prepared is going to win every time.
"We hustle at all times," Smeltzer said. "If our guys find themselves in the third period of a match, I want them to be the one who is better conditioned, who has what it takes to finish strong."
Smeltzer has 17 wrestlers out for a team that combines both W-G students and those from Madrid who wish to grapple. Twelve members of the team are from W-G, five from Madrid, and while the schools are erstwhile rivals in other sports, Smeltzer said his charges get along quite well.
"Some of these guys are football players and that rivalry is pretty intense, but they have been able to put that aside because they know that once they get in the wrestling room they are teammates," he said. "I don’t think we have had a single problem along those lines come up and I don’t expect to have one."
The Hawks return a two-time state tournament qualifier in senior Colton Milosevich, who is expected to compete again this year at 113 pounds.
"Colton knows what it takes to make it to state and is very motivated for his senior season," Smeltzer said. "He has achieved some of his goals but not all of them and I can guarantee you he will be working hard to reach the goals he still has set.
"It always helps a team to have a successful kid in the (wrestling) room, especially if he is a senior," he added. "The younger guys can look at him and see how to go their business every day, see what it takes, what is required to reach that level."
W-G will leave the 106 and 182-pound weight classes open, with Ryley Saxton and Kaleb Noel the likely choices at 120 while senior Josh Keubler and Jordan Pierce will compete to fill the 126-pound slot.
Senior Jimmy Harney, Will Nixon and Matt Peterson will battle to the honors at 132, with Race Brant the lead choice at 138 while Aaron Sperling will go at 145, Tanner Vermaas at 152 and Collen Gibbons at 160.
"The strength of the team is from 113 to 160," Smeltzer said. "That is where most of our guys are at and where most of our experience is. Dylan Nixon should do well for us at 195 and I hope our other guys at the top can step it up. If they work hard they will do what I want from every guy on the team, which is show improvement each week."
Thomas Govig will wrestle at 170 and Josh Groves at 220, with Ryan Hodges or Evan Olson taking to the mat at 285.