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Sports season preview

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Coach Hueser with his team during a timeout against Millard West. (photo: Maddox Allen)

With the fall season in the rearview mirror, winter sports are starting up. This season comprises boys and girls basketball, boys and girls wrestling, swimming and diving, and bowling.

 

BASKETBALL

Reece Kircher, 11th, goes for a layup. (Paige Miller)

The boys basketball team finished the season last year with a 15-8 record. Returning forward Bryson Bahl, a junior, was asked about the team’s goals for this year. 

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“Our goal is obviously to make state this year, and I think we have a very good shot at doing that,” Bahl said. “If we look at the biggest goal possible, it is to win a game at state. This school has never done that before, so we are shooting big this year.” 

The basketball team will be seeing new athletes as well as the returners from last year. Wes Frost, Jacob Young, and Montae Brown are newcomers. Bahl is joined by Reece Kircher and Jayden Herrera as returners. Many of the players on this year’s varsity team played last year  on JV, which finished 11-8.

Bahl talked about what the team would  bring to practices and translate to games: “Energy for sure, you can never have too much energy,” he said. “We also need to bring more talking. We have a lot of quiet guys. That works out for us as we start practicing more together and being at each other more. Our defensive intensity is there, but it is going to need to be proved, because we have a weak defense right now, and everyone brings something unique, which is a good thing.” 

Senior Kate Ligon at the throw line against Lincoln East.  (Paige Miller)

Coach Andy Gerlecz said there were some growth areas for the team this year:  “You can tell your team that you believe in them and transfer the belief, and at some point they have to see that success.” 

“Last year we started the year 5-1, and then our leading scorers got hurt,” Gerlecz said. “Before that happened, we beat Bellevue West in the second game of the year, and Bellevue West ended up being a state semifinalist team; they ended up 22-6, so that was the biggest win of the year. …For [the team]  to be able to know in their minds that they could compete and beat anybody was huge throughout the remainder year, even though we struggled when he had players get hurt.”   

This year Gerlecz has a young team with a lot of freshmen coming on to varsity who will be learning new roles. 

Sophomores Kennedy Russell and Emersyn Exner, senior Maggie Gast, and juniors Addison Carter and Mia Cooley. (photo: Maddox Allen)

“As far as that is concerned, there will be a lot of kids – freshman through seniors – that are going to be learning new roles … so that is going to be our biggest challenge, seeing who can fall into place,” Gerlecz said. “But what we are going to do is be good in transitions. We are going to play fast on offense and force people to take tough shots on defense, and be disruptive – which is the word we like to use with our defense – be disruptive and not allow the other team to do what they want easily. Those are our goals, offensively and defensively.” 

WRESTLING

Last year the girls wrestling team began its  first season, led by Coach Alexis Madsen, after the sport was sanctioned by the NSAA in 2021.

Jack Sherrell, 11th, during his dual against PLHS (photo: Savannah Peterson)

“Last year we had an opportunity … to make it to state, but unfortunately right before districts [the athlete, who was a senior] snapped her collarbone; she was ranked third in the state…. So this year’s goal is to make a state qualifier. That doesn’t matter if it’s one, five or 10, just at least somebody,” Madsen said.

The coach said a returning wrestler to watch would be team captain Allie Grow. “She’s a senior, and she just started wrestling last year for the first time and showed a lot of potential right out of the gate – having only one win away from making it to state at districts. She went through NWA this summer, which is a wrestling academy, so I think she is ready to rock and roll.”

The team is already making gains: “We’ve doubled in [numbers], which is awesome,” Madsen said. “So to have a goal like that, and accomplish that, to keep the program going and retaining that goal will also be a big thing as well.”

New wrestlers include Natalie Alvarez-Marquez, Brooke Brown, Emilie Burki, Ambrielle Chunn, Malaya Cockcroft, Aubrey Loehr, Carmen Wallraff-Bare, Olivia Weisel, and Kylie Voshell, and returners are Amal Abdel’hamid, Allie Grow, and Annalyse Walton.      Coach Madsen said the team found some growth areas to  work on: “The sense of competition, and I think we’ve got that figured out now. What is also cool to see …  for growth on the team is leadership. …Now we have Allie Grow who is our captain, and we also have Amal Abdel’hamid, and they are captains for many different reasons. Allie Grow is very athletic and skilled, so the girls can look at her as a model on how they want to be as a wrestler. Amal Abdel’hamid is the mom of the group; she makes sure everyone is well taken care of. …We need more leaders, more confidence, people who are willing to be, ‘Yep, I am at a tournament and know exactly what to do … I don’t need to look at Coach Madsen for questions.’ … ‘Do I want to try a double leg this time? Do I want to try a low single this time?’ Just going for it and being a leader, making sure the other girls are doing exactly what they need to be doing to as a whole team.”

“Last year was just a lot of first-year wrestlers, but first years who have never done a sport before,” Madsen added. “So just the idea of building the sense of competition – it is really hard to teach someone that, how to get physical, how to get aggressive, how to get tough, and how to get competitive, and the will and want to win…. . I feel that a lot of returners are going to be confident coming in.” 

Senior Allie Grow during her dual against PLHS. (Avery Brasfield)

On the boys side, Coach Jason Braniganwas asked about his team’s areas for improvement this season. “We have three placers that last year were state placers that will be back this year,” Branigan said. “Another strength that other people might not know is that we have a lot of young kids with a lot of experience as well, not only in high school wrestling that is otherwise in the offseason freestyle greco. We … will have a good amount of kids number-wise that we are going to be able to have a lot of partners where we can do things otherwise.

Branigan was asked about goals that the team could work on. “The immediate goal that I think of is leadership and establishing leaders that are going to be captains for the team. We have younger kids more so than we have older kids, and I would say a few of our older kids I don’t see as typical captains in the way of actions or verbiage, just simply being a leader in that way. A couple of our kids are going to have to step up, and we are going to have that leadership goal for kids to establish and have for the team overall.”

“Team-wise, we are looking to finish in the top 6th is what we are looking at,” Branigan said. “We finished last year 9th at the state meet, which was good, inside the top 10. Honestly we want to compete and get to a point where we can be our best at the state meet.”      The team returns with nine wrestlers from last season: Oz Kriegler, Leo Kriegler, Ian Hardy, Carter Gable, Caden Irwin, Cam Gable, Jack Sherell, Reese Santamaria and Brody Wilson. New wrestlers include  Barrett Gourley, Taggert Marco and Cullin O’Connor.

“In preseason workouts, I’ve seen a lot younger kids that are eager, I’ve seen a lot younger kids that want to do well and that want to learn – and if you are coachable, that is half of it,” Branigan said. “I see that in a lot of these kids that might not have the experience that some of them do; they might not be going to these different clubs or academies and getting some of that experience, but they are willing to learn, and you can do a lot with that.” 

BOWLING

Striking into its fourth season as an NSAA-sanctioned sport, the bowling team coached by Alan Busch has big expectations this year: “Play together as a team, both on the boys side and on the girls side. The success that we have had on the JV level … is going to translate into big success at the varsity level. So we need to continue to keep practicing hard, staying locked in at practice, work our drills and stay engaged so it will translate to wins in the future.” 

Senior Kaden Weaver during the Unified districts match. (photo by: Savannah Peterson)

Busch talked about needing new bowlers and bowlers from last year to step up. “We need our younger bowlers to take some advancements for us to stay strong,” the coach said. “This is our fourth year, and our first three we were really, really successful both on the boys and on the girls side. Making it to state on the girls side, and making it to state on the boys side, winning district, good showings at Metro. We’ve had some great success. In order for us to continue that, our younger bowlers really need to get locked in and improve and advance.”

The team is still strong on the varsity side despite losing a lot of seniors. Noah Fichtl, Aaron Streeter, Johnny Tejral and Kaden Weaver are returning to the team from the boys varsity side. On the girls side, Joscelyn Brodersen, Elena Dawson, Madison Dryden and Bella Schulist will all be  back on the varsity girls team. New bowlers to watch include Brennan Heck and Leilani Param.

Senior Madison Dryden during their dual against PLHS. (photo by: Piper Holland)

For the returners and the newcomers, Coach Busch expects the team to have a positive attitude. “Positive attitude and a desire to learn,” Busch said. “I don’t care about bowling balls or bowling shoes or anything like that as long as they can come to practice with the desire to learn and to improve their bowling, that is the primary thing.”

SWIMMING & DIVING

Head Coach Nick Baker has goals and areas of emphasis for the swimming and diving team in the upcoming season. “We always look at academics. There are some different academic award programs out there, and we always want to place as high in those as we can,” Baker said. “Also, it is getting as many kids into the state meets as we can, and scoring as high as we can. There are a lot of coaches out there that score out the meet beforehand. I never do that, but after the fact they usually tell me how we were supposed to finish. As long as we outperform how we are quote-unquote ‘supposed’ to do, I walk away pretty happy.”

“In my opinion, high school swimming is a very sprint-based season, so we try to go fast all of the time, we try to be aware of what paces we need to go during races, and we need to emulate those in practice as often as possible,” Baker said.

Senior Cody Gross during senior night at the PLHS pool. (picture by: Piper Holland)

One growth area that the team wants to work on is having the underclassmen step up. “We’re a really young team,” Baker said. “When the COVID year happened, we had to make some cuts, and typically we are a no-cut program. We would have had a larger upperclassmen group than  what we have this year, so we will have a lot to work on, especially with our underclassmen.” 

Returners for the team are Cody Gross, Evan Click, Marti Warrior and Lillian Sherman. Newcomers include Amber Sievers and Maddox Graves for the girls, and Jacob Miller and Liam Prey for the boys.

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Brody Carter
Brody Carter, Staff Reporter
Hello, my name is Brody Carter and I am a writer for the news & magazine. I am on the school bowling team, and I am also on PLV Media
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