Young Panther wrestling team sets high goals

Polytech wrestling Spenser Hahn by .

Senior Spenser Hahn was Polytech’s lone individual champion at 113 pounds at the school’s own invitational last weekend. (Delaware State News file photo)

WOODSIDE — Eric Buckson thinks — and hopes — this Polytech High wrestling team will look a lot different in February than it does right now in December.

There’s an abundance of youth on the roster as the Panthers are trying to replace four individual state champions.

Like many of the other top teams in the Henlopen Conference, Polytech will be competing at the Milford Invitational at Milford High this weekend. First-round matches begin at 4 p.m. today while action is slated to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

“Milford always sets the bar,” Buckson said. “With the teams that are going there this weekend, it could be a kind of benchmark for individual states. I don’t think you’re going to learn who the best dual-meet teams are this weekend but I know you’re going to learn who some of the best individuals are.”

Polytech is coming off a second-place finish to Milford in its own invitational last weekend. Senior Spenser Hahn was Polytech’s lone individual champion at 113 pounds.

Despite losing a number of seniors from last year’s team, which finished as the Division I state dual meet runner-up to Smyrna, Hahn hopes the new-look Panthers can show they will still be competitive in these early-season tournaments.

“I’d like to see the team place in the top three or at least really high,” Hahn said. “I want to see us keep our status up there, so it doesn’t look like we fell off or anything. I’d be happy if we try as hard as we can to make it back to team states this year.”

At the end of the day, the Panthers want to make the field for the six-team Division I dual meet state tournament again. They’ve made it each of the last two seasons since moving up to Division I.

“We’re never going to change that mindset,” Buckson said. “That’s our goal this year, first to get there and then, second, advance as far as we can. There’s no question that we’re young and there’s no question that the league is very good. But we can’t change what we’re doing here because of that. We’ve got to keep grinding.”

Caesar Rodney, Delmar, Dover, Indian River, Lake Forest, Laurel, Smyrna, Sussex Central, Sussex Tech and Woodbridge are the other Henlopen Conference teams entered in the Milford Invitational.

Polytech is looking to replace seven seniors from last year’s squad. That includes 2015 individual state champions Andy Schmeusser, Kody Stevens, Josh Price and Mark Mullnack.

For the seniors that are left, it’s about filling the leadership void left by that group.

“We’re trying to work as hard as we can to show we have heart and keep this thing going,” senior Austin Price said. “I want to see us bond as a team with all the new meat. There’s a lot of new kids and they have a lot of potential. We can just show them what we know and try to pass it down to them.”

“I’m looking for them to assume that alpha-dog type of position,” Buckson said. “They need to set the tempo.”

Polytech has 16 freshmen listed on its roster. There’s also a large group of sophomores and juniors who have been waiting for their chance for a starting spot on the varsity team.

“A lot of these guys have wrestled but they haven’t wrestled at this level with this type of tempo,” Buckson said. “It’s going to be nice to see their maturation.

“We’ve got a lot of young talent so I’m excited about that. The future is bright. We’re going to have to find our way this year but I’m still excited about this team. I do believe that we have the talent to be a very competitive team. What excites me is the talent in the room, it just has to be developed.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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