What will progress look like for the Salamanca wrestling program in Keith Jones’ second year as varsity coach? Jones looks at it in several ways.
For one, the coach would like to see more wins in dual matches this year. But with a young and inexperienced (at least at the varsity level) team, the Warriors have a lot of work still to do.
“The first one would be if we can get four wins instead of three, that would be a success,” Jones said, referring to last year’s record. “There’s a lot of different ways. Being where this program’s coming from, it would be successful. I would like to get six wins this year. That, I think, would be a huge jump from last year. Getting 17 kids to finish the season would be a huge one.”
The Warriors have 17 wrestlers on the roster, up from 14 last year. But of those 17, only three have varsity experience and all but two are freshmen or sophomores. Listed at 126 pounds, Mushirah Sheppard is the team’s lone returning senior with a 17-18 record last year. Sophomores Trevor Ellis (30-9) and Lucas McKenna (14-13) bring back winning records, the latter as a dual-sport athlete with basketball.
Sessa George (120), Keyona Coban (152), Malaki Harrison (152), Blake Harrison (160), Shawn Bacelli (160), Connor Seekins (170), Shawn Pierce (170), Jordan Ground (182), Jessica Seekins (285) and Kody Shinners (285) make up the team’s 10 freshmen.
Ellis (126), McKenna (145), Hunter Cotter-Brown (132), Zach Cotter (138), Justin Nichols (170) and Keedin Bucktooth (220) are all sophomores. Quinton Stahlman joins the team as a senior at 160.
“We’re getting probably about 12 every day to practice, so that’s about the norm right now. We had 13 today,” Jones said Monday, noting an improvement in practice attendance. “The thing is with the 14 kids we finished with last year we’ve only got three back this year. We’re pretty new but we did get some modified kids that moved up from last year. So that’s going to help us a little bit. But we’re pretty much 125-285, we can cover most weight classes as long as everybody shows up.”
With a younger team, Jones thinks Sheppard, Ellis and McKenna are “learning to be” leaders the program needs. What does a wrestling leader look like?
“It’s the individual that comes to practice and leads by example, just comes in and works hard,” Jones said. “Not necessarily going to yell at the kids but maybe motivated them a little bit outside of what the coaches do.”
The newcomers also have shown commitment, Jones said.
“Even the non-modified kids (coming up to varsity), I think we have a good core that comes in here and works hard every night,” he noted. “Last year we would have three or four kids at practice sometimes. This year we haven’t had less than eight, so even at our Veteran’s Day practice and our Thanksgiving practice we still had kids coming. So we’ve got kids that want to be here, want to work hard and they’re a young bunch. We’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores, which will help us in the future.”
Jones, who also coached as a football assistant in the fall and head softball coach in the spring, thinks working in the school has helped recruit modified and varsity wrestlers, with coach Rich Morton’s numbers also up in modified.
The season opens on Friday and Saturday in the St. Francis Duals tournament. Other tournaments on the schedule later this winter include the Portville and Franklinville invitationals and the STWOA (Southern tier Wrestling Officials Association) Tournament, held locally at the Allegany Community Center.
“I can tell just by watching these kids wrestle in practice that we have a long ways to go,” Jones said. “Our first tournament I don’t really know if I can use as an indicator. It’s tough tournament I got into so in the future we can get in. When I was at Barker/Roy-Hart we tried for four years to get into it and there was never an opening. So I tried to get in as soon as I can for the future. But I think we could also go in and win a match or two this weekend.
“STWOA’s a good one. It’s right there in our backyard. But it’s tough because we have three varsity wrestlers and the other kids, if we had a JV, they’d be wrestling JV. Since we don’t, everybody gets thrown into varsity. The end of the year is what we shoot for and I think we’ll be solid by the end of the year.”
SALAMANCA VARSITY WRESTLING SCHEDULE
(Matches 6 p.m., unless otherwise indicated)
30 — St. Francis Duals, 4 p.m.
1 — St. Francis Duals, 9 a.m.
5 — at Franklinville
8 — at Portville Tournament, 9 a.m.
12 — at Portville
14 — STWOA Tournament, 4 p.m.
15 — STWOA Tournament, 10 a.m.
19 — at Cattaraugus-LV
29 — at Erie Tournament, 9:30 a.m.
5 — at Franklinville JV Tournament, 9 a.m.
9 — Frewsburg
12 — at Franklinville Tournament, 9 a.m.
15 — Wellsville
16 — Randolph
19 — Section 6 Duals (if qualified), 10 a.m.
23 — Maple Grove
26 — at Cattaraugus-LV Tournament, 9:30 a.m.
30 — at Falconer (B Team)
2 — Section 6 Class C Tournament, at TBA
9 — Section 6 Div. 2 Tournament, 10 a.m.
22 — NYS Tournament, at Albany, 10 a.m.