Expectations high for HHS wrestling team
By NICK McQUEEN
The past two years, Hays High School senior wrestler Leroy Franco has been right in the mix with a pair of loaded Indian teams that were expected to competed for state hardware.
He's had a pair of up-and-down seasons, both of which have resulted in a Class 5A state qualification, but a state medal has yet to be within his grasp.
Heading into 2012-13, the 152-pounder's goal has become more clear.
"My mentality the last couple years has just been making it to state," Franco said. "That's not the idea this year -- the goal now is to place."
That campaign starts Saturday in the Wichita-Haysville Campus Invitational, kicking off another season of high expectations for an experienced Indian squad.
Hays High returns five of last season's nine 5A state qualifiers -- a list that includes defending 170-pound state champion junior Preston Weigel, senior Kyler Meyers, sophomore Ethan Deterding and junior Ross Kohl. All were part of last year's 10th-place Indian team. They form a core for what Indian coach John Hafliger called a determined group.
"We'll have a competitive season," Hafliger said. "With five returning state qualifiers, we have a core group of kids coming back that are high-level kids, and they've set the bar high for the rest of the kids in the practice room."
Enter Franco, who qualified last season at 145 pounds. He is ranked No. 6 at 145 pounds by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, but likely will wrestle 152.
"He's definitely on a mission this year," Hafliger said. "Leroy I would describe in the past as hot and cold, hot and cold. You would see it in practice, see it on the mat.
"I've seen nothing but hot so far -- he's just been really focused," the coach added.
It carries over through the rest of the returning group, which also includes senior Jake Sedbrook, who was injured much of last season.
"He's back and has looked really good," Hafliger said.
The rest of the probable starting group is relatively new to the varsity squad with a pair of freshmen in the lower weights.
"(Senior) Cade Albert is going to step up and (freshman) Ross Hattan has looked really good in the practice room. (Freshman) Riley Zimmerman at 106 is going to be pretty solid," Hafliger said. "A little inexperience at the start of the year, but they have the potential to step up."
Weigel, who was second as a freshman and won the title last year, has an 81-4 record. He bumps up to 195 pounds this season and was ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
Meyers will wrestle 170 and is ranked No. 4, while Deterding is ranked No. 5 at 182.
"Leroy has been really solid in the room and Ethan Deterding has definitely looked good," Hafliger said. "You can see the desire in these guys' eyes and they come out real hard."
Hays High has four outings before the holiday break, but has a change in its schedule following the break. Traditionally, Hays High would go to the Liberal Southwest Classic in its first January action, but changed to the Topeka-Seaman Invitational on Jan. 5.
"That's a good thing for us," Hafliger said. "We'll see teams we never see until the state tournament. It's a little different style of wrestling."