MONROE — Monroe High School wrestling coach Shawn Thomas got all the assurance he needed when his Hornets opened the season with a win at the Northwest Duals back in December.
That victory catapulted Monroe to a 22-2 dual record for the year and gave individuals the confidence they needed to thrive, as the Hornets now are sending seven wrestlers to this weekend’s Division II district tournament at Wilmington.
Thomas believed going into the season that he had a pretty solid team, but beating Division I schools Princeton, Milford and Northwest right off the bat proved what he had been preaching to his wrestlers since the summer and the hard work is paying off in the end.
“We were preaching that if we all did what we were supposed to do over the summer, we would have a solid squad,” Thomas said. “Guys worked hard, went to a lot of camps, lifted weights, and so to start off the season that way, we knew then we could have a pretty special year.”
Monroe hopes to carry that into districts Friday and Saturday with freshman Alex Pitsch (138), sophomore Caleb Thomas (106), juniors Michael Frederickson (113) and Kyle Mink (145), and seniors Sam Price (152), Spencer Haman (126) and Will Striet (195) all set to compete.
The Hornets were 13-0 going into state duals, where they won three more matches before falling short against Ross in the regional final. In the transition from the dual format to individual tournament time, Monroe made some changes to the lineup and took one more loss in the regular-season finale against McClain.
Monroe placed third at the Southwestern Buckeye League tournament, finishing just 11 points behind winner Eaton, and was sectional runner-up to Eaton last weekend. Haman (28-5), Price (24-3) and Striet (35-5) were individual champions, Thomas (36-4) was a runner-up, and Frederickson (12-9), Pitsch (22-11) and Mink (22-13) all finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
“It’s been a really solid year,” coach Thomas said. “We have a lot of seniors that led the way, a full lineup, which helps, and some young guys that came in and filled varsity spots. And, the returners were solid wrestlers. The guys worked hard and had a great season — 22-2 in duals; we placed in the top 3 or 4 every tournament we went to. We’re looking forward to districts. Each of our guys have a legitimate chance to get to state.”
Monroe didn’t qualify anyone for state last year, and as usual its biggest challenges likely will come from Graham, the 18-time defending state champion.
The top four in each weight class move on to state next weekend in Columbus, but as seniors who were sectional champions, Haman, Price and Stiet should at least be in the hunt. Price is a two-time state alternate, and coach Thomas believes “this is his year.”
Striet has “grown up a lot this year” while battling through a lot of close matches, and all five of his losses came against top competition that will help him prepare to take that next step. Haman was a second-team All-SWBL selection who has been solid all year.
Caleb Thomas lost a quarterfinal match in the final 20 seconds last year at districts that could have been the difference in getting to state and should be competitive once again. Frederickson was a surprise qualifier after starting the season on junior varsity and recently stepping in to replace senior Nick Feaver, who broke his collarbone, but this could be a good springboard for his senior season next year.
Mink is just a second-year wrestler but has grown “leaps and bounds,” according to coach Thomas, who also noted that Pitsch qualifying as a freshman was a big deal.
“It’s always a tough road with Graham in our district, but the guys have put in the time and the work, and hopefully we’ve got a chance to get some guys through,” coach Thomas said.
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