Area teams trying to slow Eaton’s SWBL mat dominance

Monroe High School wrestling coach Shawn Thomas has kept his eyes on the prize all season.

Yes, the trip through the regular season is one adventure, but it’s all about being ready to go when the month of champions kicks off Friday at Madison on the first night of the Southwestern Buckeye League tournament.

“I say this to the team at least once a week,” Thomas said. “If you are wrestling to the best of your ability and you are executing, then success will follow.”

Thomas is hoping some of that success starts to follow the Hornets.

“This is what we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the year,” Thomas said. “To be ready for SWBL is to mentally be ready for sectionals, which sets the stage for districts.”

And this time around, it is anyone’s guess who might walk away as the champ.

Eaton has won five of the last eight titles and three of the last four. Madison stopped the Eagles’ victory tour with a win in 2015 and Carlisle interrupted another run by Eaton with a title in 2012.

“I have really no idea who the winner is going to be,” Carlisle coach Nathan Carmack said. “I think there are plenty of teams that have a shot. Preble Shawnee took some big steps forward during the state duals, but Milton-Union is still a really strong tournament team. As for everyone else, I am unsure.”

Carmack has been too busy transforming a young team into a team that is slowly gaining confidence.

“My team is very young and very green to the idea of month of champions with the exception of a few,” Carmack said. “I feel like the SWBL meet is a huge confidence boost for my kids heading into the sectional meet. As a young team, we need that confidence.”

“A lot of my kids are going into the month of champions as first-timers, and it’s a lot to take in. The SWBL meet should help to settle those kids down so they can realize that they need to just keep working hard and it will pay off. I expect my seasoned few to really show my younger kids what it means to go into the month of champions with a purpose and goal in mind and what it looks like to chase that goal with a vengeance.”

While the Indians are young, Franklin coach Matt Franklin is looking for big things from his seniors and newcomers alike.

Senior Trenten Scott is looking for his third SWBL title and Wyatt Hillard is looking for his first as a senior. Add in freshmen Jared Kremer (152) and Gage Johnson (170) and the Wildcats could pose a threat to the leaders.

“We are more of a tournament team,” Franklin said. “We have some big point scorers in our lineup which help us in a tournament format.

“The key for us is getting our seniors in the finals and our freshmen to place. We have quite a few seniors this year who could be in the finals. Our freshmen that have been in the lineup have made a huge impact for us.”

“I am looking for our kids to keep raising expectations for themselves,” he added. “I do not think our kids have peaked in their performance yet. As we have gone through our season, I feel like we keep getting better from top to bottom, young to old, so I am excited to see.”

The tournament begins at 6 p.m. Friday and resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday. The finals are Saturday, one hour after the final consolation bout.