Highland High School wrestling coach Terry Ohren believes his team will have a grappler competing at all 14 weight classes this season.
“I should have enough wrestlers for a whole lineup, that’s what I am hoping,” Ohren said. “Last year I had an opening at heavyweight. It’s hard to overcome when you give at least six points away every match.”
Ohren’s main goal for his team is the same as it is every year — to have at least one wrestler qualify for the state tournament.
“This is my eighth year of coaching and I have always had at least one kid go to state every year, and I don’t want that streak to end,” he said.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
In his previous seven years at the helm for the Bulldogs, Ohren has coached tremendously successful wrestlers from their start in the Highland Junior Bulldogs Wrestling Club (HJBWC) throughout their high school years.
The best trio he has coached were two-time undefeated state Class 2A heavyweight champion Tanner Farmer (2013, 2014), heavyweight runner-up Nick Czar (2015), and defending undefeated 152-pound state champ Trent Rakers, who also placed third his junior year.
One goal Ohren has not achieved in his tenure is winning the Mississippi Valley Conference team title.
“I still want conference, that’s the only thing I haven’t accomplished in my coaching career here,” he said. “I still want it and I am still here. Everybody thought I was going to quit but I enjoy the sport, that’s why I am here.”
But winning the MVC will always be similar to a Mount Everest to attain, especially with the stranglehold Triad has had on the conference crown. Under coach Russ Witzig, the Knights have reigned supreme in the MVC for the last 10 years in a row.
“It’s going to be tough,” Ohren admitted. “Russ (Witzig) always comes up with miracles. I thought I had it a few years ago but that didn’t work out. He has always got a lot of depth. But he’s got that junior high program over there and that helps. I don’t have a junior high program.”
Due in part to not having a junior high wrestling program, Ohren has some freshmen on the team who have never wrestled up until now.
“But at least they’re coming out,” he said. “But you have to teach them everything. I always tell them not to get discouraged at the beginning of the season. I want them to know everything at the end of the season because that is when it matters the most...I hope they stick with it.”
Along with coaching the HHS wrestling team, Ohren will continue to stick with coaching the HBJWC for the near future.
“The kids club is my feeder program and I have to make sure it’s done right over there,” he said. “And the kids know me by the time they get here. I know how they wrestle and they know how I coach so the two work well together for me. The kids already know me and respect me when they come to the high school.”
Ohren figures that junior Devin Wills (145 pounds), junior Colton Brown (120) and senior Caleb Machuca (126) are the top three returning wrestlers on the squad.
“Those three have a good shot a making state,” Ohren said.
Wills was a sectional qualifier last year and trained with Rakers all last season. Rakers is currently competing in open tournaments while redshirting his freshman year of eligibility at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“Devin (Wills) had a great partner to work with last year so he should have learned a great deal from Trent (Rakers),” Ohren said. “Them two wrestled all last year together so (Wills) could only get better from working with (Rakers).”
Since Brown and Machuca wrestle so close together in weight with just six pounds separating them, the duo compete against one another in practice.
“They push one another and hopefully they push each other far enough where they make sectionals this year. And hopefully they can go on from sectionals and qualify for state,” Ohren said.
Other key returners will be seniors Christian Zuccarelli (160 to 170 pounds), Cam Nelson (195 to 220) and Dylan Knebel (220 to heavyweight), and junior Drew Hulvey (152 to 170).
Alex Reed did not wrestle last year as a freshman because he had a torn ACL, but Ohren is familiar with Reed through the HBJWC and believes he could make an impact.
Two others who return and could make an impact are sophomores Colby Davis and Matt McCallister.
“Colby Davis will be right there at 152, 160 pounds,” Ohren said. “I’ve had him in kids club and he wrestled last year and he was pretty strong.”
Two freshmen who wrestled for Coach Ohren in the HBJWC who could make an early splash for the program are Bryce Kirsch and Tanner Schranz.
Schranz and sophomore Garrett Metz will most likely handle the two lightest weights at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively.