Science Hill is once again at the head of the area class in wrestling, but the Hilltoppers have some unfinished business hanging over from last year.
Their grip on the region title was pried loose by Dobyns-Bennett.
“The biggest thing we’re focused on is trying to prepare ourselves to take back the region title,” said head coach Jimmy Miller. “We felt we didn’t wrestle our best, and didn’t finish the way we wanted.
“Our focus is to finish February in the position we want, which is another region championship. Anything less will not be, in my terms, successful.”
It looks like the Indians will again be the Hilltoppers’ biggest challenge, although Miller said Tennessee High is in the picture as well.
“Against D-B, if we wrestle to our expectations we should be fine,” said Miller. “But they will wrestle us like there is no tomorrow. Their kids will be ready, and our kids will be sky high.”
The teams will meet Jan. 16 at Science Hill’s gym.
Leading the way for Science Hill’s lineup are three seniors: Gary Hudgins (126 pounds), Max Vaughn (132) and Austin Bagley (145).
“Those are the most seasoned kids, and they’ve been around the program the longest,” said Miller. “They have the most experience.”
Hudgins was a state qualifier last year, and Miller said he has a good shot at winning the region this year.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Miller.
One of the losses by Hudgins (12-2) came against Greeneville’s Jon Boatman, a previous state runner-up.
Vaughn and Austin finished in the top eight of the state last year, and both should be in the region-title mix in 2014. Vaughn won region titles as an eighth-grader and last season. He is 8-0 this year, having missed some early matches with injuries.
Among the younger wrestlers, 106-pound freshman Cooper Williams seems to have the highest ceiling.
“He was really good in middle school, and he’s stepped right in and is doing exactly what we want him to do,” said Miller. “He’s working hard and doing very well.”
Williams is 11-3 on the season. Also included in the starting lineup are 113-pounder Athan Kalogeros (Fr.), 120-pounder Eric Yother (Jr.), 138-pounder Sam Lane (Jr.), and 152-pound Ben Rolston (Jr.).
In the higher weight classes are Shane Jessee (160, Jr.), Costa Kalogeros (170, So.), Colby Hardin (182, Jr.), Hunter Bagley (195, So.), Anh Khoa Nguyen (220, Jr.) and 285-pound sophomore Cameron Burris.
All of that makes up for a solid dual team that already owns impressive wins over District 2 powers Jefferson County (58-24) and Morristown East (61-10).
“The thing I’m stressing with the kids every day is this sport is 10 percent wrestling and 90 percent work,” said Miller. “If you learn to work hard and work better, wrestling will take care of itself.
“Winning a championship does not happen on the night we wrestle D-B. It happens months before. If we have good practices, get in the room and work, good things will happen on match night.”
Science Hill took on Asheville (N.C.) T.C. Roberson on Thursday, and will participate in the Tullahoma Duals this weekend.