The West Lincoln Rebels have had quite a spectacular season, going 32-0, a feat never done at West Lincoln. While theyâ€™re pleased with that school record, they covet a team state title more than anything.
â€œItâ€™s been a great season so far, but we still have a long way to go, because thatâ€™s a grueling week next week,â€ Rebels head coach Butch Ross said.
Talk to anyone associated with Rebelsâ€™ wrestling and theyâ€™ll tell you, they wonâ€™t be satisfied until they win that state title. Youâ€™ll also hear one key word, depth.
â€œThat means weâ€™ve got a good, consistent solid team. You look at those other kids, where theyâ€™ve split time, and they have good records too. That means they can do the job, whether theyâ€™re starters or non-starters,â€ Ross said.
Wrestlers, who did not get a lot of mat time, but who have been, nonetheless, important in Rossâ€™ eyes are: Travis Hullette, Lucas Quinteros, Kevin Martin, Jack Wombough, Payden Houser, Zeke Elmore, Matt Richardson, Jesse Navey, Neil Pellium, Randall Neal, Tim Arrowood, Ethan Peterson, Clay Heafner.
â€œThere are a lot of kids that are non-starters that have contributed to the team. The 32 wins are a tribute to the starters, non-starters, a whole team effort. It starts in the practice room and carries over to the matches,â€ Ross said.
Those wrestlers that have started nine or more matches have the following records:
John Harkey 41-6, Matt Whittle 28-14, Zac Elmore 16-5, Jeremy Pearson 33-7, Matt Avery 37-3, Zeb Elmore 34-6, Logan Shronce 17-8, Brandon Auten 12-5, Tyler Wilfong 11-8, James Pearson 12-7, Dustin Hester 37-4, Daniel Scronce 24-11, Ryan Rhodes 7-2, Daniel Soto 31-9, Keane Steele 24-10, Daniel Smith 15-2, Thomas Smith 18-12, Antonio Rojo 42-1.
While the Rebels have amassed an undefeated record before, theyâ€™ve never had 32 wins. Ross believes consistency and work ethic have been the two pivotal reasons for their success.
â€œItâ€™s a good tribute to the way theyâ€™ve worked. Itâ€™s a whole team effort. For them to be able to maintain that level, for that amount of time against the schedule theyâ€™ve wrestled; it speaks highly for them,â€
In the 2000 season, when they won a state title, they went 31-1 having lost late in December.
Along the way, two wrestlersâ€™ actions, Matt Avery and Zeb Elmore, exemplify what Rebels wrestling is all aboutâ€”team.
Avery, who was one win away from 100 career victories, was pulled from the lineup in favor to give a JV wrestler some mat experience. Avery didnâ€™t mention it to Ross and as a result didnâ€™t earn his 100th win in the seasonâ€™s last home match.
â€œItâ€™s a good team concept. It shows the way the boys are thinking. They are concerned about the team, theyâ€™re concerned with trying to win the state championship, more than they are with their own individual records,â€ adding the fact Zebâ€™s 100th victory went unnoticed because thatâ€™s not Elmoreâ€™s priority or the teamâ€™s.
Along with sacrifice, West has 17 senior leaders that have led by both example and vocally. As they enter the Dual Team Playoffs next Tuesday, Ross sees no reason why that wonâ€™t continue.
â€œI think weâ€™ll have good senior leadership. I think theyâ€™ll step up the occasion. Theyâ€™ve been leaders all year and I donâ€™t see any reason why they would quit leading at this point,â€ he said.
The Midwest 2A Conference Tournament is in serious jeopardy of being canceled this Saturday due to inclement weather. Currently, the tournament is slated for 9 a.m.
Ross believes his team will be largely unaffected if they do or do not wrestle.
â€œI donâ€™t think it will either way. If they wrestle, it will be a plus and if they donâ€™t, hopefully theyâ€™ll maintain their level of intensity,â€ he said.
While the future remains unwritten, if their dream of the winning the state title doesnâ€™t come to fruition, donâ€™t try to tell Ross about a jinx.
â€œI donâ€™t believe in that. You either win it or lose it. It comes down to who has good matches and who has bad ones. You could have wrestled good all year and have an off-night and youâ€™re going home. The competitionâ€™s level is too high to have an off-night and be able to survive.â€
by John Mark Brooks