Augusta's wrestling program lost a great crop of seniors a year ago. The Orioles set a record for most state qualifiers in a single season, they won all but one dual, and they had a sophomore state champion.
It will be hard to reload after a group like that.
"At the same time, we've got some pretty tough, scrappy young kids, I think, who are going to fill some shoes pretty well," coach Brandon Terry said.
The Orioles will start the 2013-14 season with an even blend of seasoned veterans and first-time varsity wrestlers who will have to find their spot in a deep roster. Augusta returns state qualifiers Colton Clayborn, Wright Bosley, Nathan Moore and the aforementioned state champ Jacob Goldenstein. They have less experienced wrestlers like Rob Winzer, Kaeleb Bratton and Tyler Hildibrand, as well as Blake Aitchison, Cody Thompson as well as Jeremy Travaille, who returns after not wrestling a year ago.
For all of the Orioles, though, Terry has taken it back to the basics to start the season, with a major emphasis in practicing good position. Everything in wrestling starts with that, and attention to all the little details will make big differences. The Orioles learned a lot during summer camps about the importance of simple concepts like head control. The senior are working hard to get the younger guys up to speed, and as always, the team is working to be one of the best conditioned teams in the state.
Goldenstein finished with a perfect record and a state championship last season. So how does he improve on that?
He said he wants to completely dominate.
"My goal is not to get taken down, to get 30 or more pins, and to win every match by pin or tech," Goldenstein said.
The first time Goldenstein got taken down last year was during the state tournament. But he had several matches where his opponent would be able to stave off huge wins, though that's mostly just important for duals. Still, Goldenstein already has ways he knows he wants to improve.
"A lot of it's technique and just toughness," he said.
"He's bumping up a weight, so that alone should be enough [to challenge him]," Terry said.
Though he isn't a senior, he also has become a face to the program. He has played a big role in helping Moore, his practice mate, get better. Goldenstein wants to lead by example for more of his teammates.
"He's gotten much better in just about every way imaginable," Goldenstein said about Moore. "He's working hard and getting things done."
Finish what they start
For Clayborn, a returning senior, coming up short of winning a state medal last season left an empty feeling he doesn't want again. In fact, he's shooting higher than simply placing.
"Win State, I want to win State," Clayborn said without hesitation.
He beefed up a bit during the summer, and he will move up a weight class to 160. But for him, reaching his goal will depend more on an improved mentality.
"Hard work, not stopping and not letting anybody get in my way," he said. "...Keep my mind in it, not focus on what other people are doing. Sometimes I kept myself out [of matches]."
Bosley also came close to earning a medal and figures to be a serious contender for one this year.
Other seniors, like Cody Thompson and Blake Aitchison, are ready to handle the challenge of becoming key cogs in the Orioles' lineup. Thompson showed great signs of improvement last year and he has his sights set on a state medal. He said he has capabilities to finish a lot of takedowns, but needs to work on his game on the mat.
"I'd like to see myself improve from the bottom. I need to really have the heart to stand up," he said.
Kaeleb Bratton, who is moving up a weight to 138, wants to revamp his game. He said he wants to wrestle more aggressively to win and not simply avoid losing, and he wants to take advantage of his quickness and speed.
"Work on confidence in my shots," Bratton said, "instead of being just a defensive wrestler and waiting. On top, work more for the pin instead of waiting for something to happen."
As for Aitchison, he is a light heavyweight—he checks in around 220—as he's planning on imposing his quick, aggressive style against the bigger, but slower, opponents.
"Wrestling heavyweight is a lot different," Aitchison said. "There's a lot more weight and different competition, and for me, I think I'd be a lot quicker and more agile.
"Usually I'm a defense kind of guy when it comes to wrestling, so I'm going to practice on taking more shots this year," he added.
The Orioles begin their season Thursday at Campus for a double dual with the Colts and Andover Central Jaguars.