It may not be the typical dominance for Science Hill, but when push comes to shove teams are still going to have a wrestling battle on their hands.
“The goals are the same, to win the conference, win the region and go to the state duals,” said head coach Jeff Price. “We will go as hard as we can, and with a little bit of luck maybe we can slide back into the top four in the state. We’ve got a chance to be as good as anybody.”
Science Hill’s program stands proud on 10 state dual appearances in a row. And the Hilltoppers have managed top-four finishes at the state in each of the last two years.
Also, Science Hill has placed in the top 10 teams in the individual state tournament nearly every year in the last decade. The ‘Toppers were third two years ago and seventh last year.
Even though Science Hill usually dominates the area wrestling scene, there are some good wrestlers across the Big Eight Conference. Included in the mix are a pair of Daniel Boone standouts in Trevor Shropshire and Adam Whitfield. And David Crockett boasts 160-pound standout Jeremiah Rogers.
As for the Hilltoppers, this year’s team is strong in the middle, starting at 120 pounds where Derek Sutherland wrestles. He finished second in the region last year, and has his sights set on the crown this year.
Arguably the top wrestler for the Hilltoppers is Cole Schurlknight, a senior at 126 pounds.
“He competes and he’s a tough kid,” said Price. “He’s not afraid of anybody. He’s a confident kid who expects to win.”
Schurlknight is a three-time region champion who finished third in state at 119 last year.
Also solid is senior Tyler Knowles at 132. He is the defending region champion.
“He came within a match of placing in the state last year,” said Price. “He’s a pinner who is probably the toughest kid on the team.”
Sophomore Max Vaughn figures in the mix at either 126 or 132.
At 138 is Carson Schurlknight, who was second in the region last year.
Senior Steven Goldstein returns to the lineup after missing last year with a back injury. He was fifth in the state two years ago, and will wrestle at 145 or 152 along with Wesley Vaughan.
At 160, the Hilltoppers are solid with Justin Snyder, a two-time region champion.
“He’s the best athlete on the team,” said Price.
Rounding out the top part of the lineup for the Hilltoppers are Sam Arms (170, Sr.), Jacob Wilson (182, Jr.), Ben Lowery (190, Sr.), Damian Hayes (220, Jr.), Ethan Morelock (220, So.) and Ben Curtis (280, Jr.).
In the lower weight classes, Price will count on Ben Riley (106, So.), Gary Hudgins (106, 113, So.), Gus Darden (113, Sr.), Austin Bagley (145, 152, So.) and Josh Stroud (152, 160, Sr.).
Science Hill will compete in the Cleveland Duals this weekend. Cleveland is the defending Class AAA state champion.
After that, Science Hill will host the ‘Topper Duals on Dec. 17 and the Tony Farrace Duals on Dec. 21.
Overall, Price said his wrestlers just need to keep working.
“These kids in the middle are good wrestlers,” said Price. “They’ve just got to continue showing improvements. Right now we’re not in real good shape as we ought to be. But we will get there.
“One thing these guys need to realize is what happens at the end is more important than what happens in the beginning.”
As for the Trailblazers’ Shropshire, he is a 195-pound junior. He weighed 177 pounds as a freshman, who came within one point of reaching the state tournament in the 215-pound class.
As a sophomore, Shropshire made it to the state and won two matches.
“He has strength and good technique,” said Boone head coach Reid Ratliff. “But the thing that makes Trevor is his work ethic.”
As for Whitfield, he is a 132-pound senior. Ratliff said Whitfield has shown a lot of potential, but things haven’t gone his way to reach the state.
“The cards didn’t fall for him,” said Ratliff. “I sure hope things work out for him this year.”
As for the Pioneers’ Rogers, he is a solid competitor in the 160-pound ranks. However, he will face stiff competition from Snyder — a good friend of his — along the way.