By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
THEY SAY that champions are built in the offseason in every sport. When it comes to wrestling, it is certainly the mantra of the perennial powerhouse Reynolds Raiders program.
The Raiders, who compete in the summer as the Rhino Wrestling Club under the direction of Reynolds High coach Casey Taylor, recently competed in the rugged Disney Duals in Orlando, Fla.
Next year’s Raiders competitors performed well, going 7-4 against some of the top programs in the country.
“They did exactly what I wanted them to do,” said Taylor. “They worked hard. And the goal was to open the eyes of the younger kids to gain some experience and enjoy themselves as a team for the upcoming season.”
The event, held in the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, allowed programs to bring even graduated seniors. However, Taylor felt that just bringing next year’s squad was a better purpose.
“If we’d have taken our top graduated seniors (guys like Austin Matthews, Jamar Henry, Logan Rickert and Cam Cianci) I think we possibly could have won the thing. But our goal was for our young wrestlers (9th graders) to get some experience in high school competition before they get there.”
In their division, Rhino went 4-3, losing to teams from Florida, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio. They then advanced to bracket competition where they went 3-1 to finish runner-up. In the bracket finals they lost to Palmerton, Fla., a strong team that had also beaten them earlier.
“In the semifinals, we were trailing by 10 points going into the final two weights. But Robert Foulkrod pinned his kid at 220 and (heavyweight) Gene Ringer dominated his kid, a very good heavyweight, before pinning him.
“It was funny because after the match someone asked me where Ringer is going to college next year and I said, ‘He’s going to be a sophomore in high school.’
“It was great competition, but it was also a bonding experience for the team,” said Taylor. “I got to take my wife and son and mother-in-law so it was a good family trip. My mom and Brian (Hills, former Raiders coach and Casey’s step-dad) went down. We had about 20 parents there too who helped as chaperones. It was a great experienced for everyone”
Overall, the team finished 14th out of 46 clubs in the folkstyle (high school style) event.
Reynolds for the Rhino wrestlers (including grades at Reynolds) were: 106 - Gage Bayless, Fr., 5-3; 106/113 - Seth Hogue, So., 9-1; 113 - Chaise Hauck, Fr., 5-4; 120 - Mike Bartolo, Jr., 8-3; 120 - A.J. Osborne, So., 3-5; 126 - Joel Leise, Fr., 5-5; 132 - Damion Gearhart, Fr., 5-2; 132 - Dallas Sposito, Sr., 2-4; 138 - Alex DiGregorio, Sr., 3-8; 145 - Mason McCollum, Sr., 10-1; 152 - Levi Stoyer, Sr., 8-3; 152 - James Slater, Jr., 5-4; 152 - Tylor Gongloff, Sr., 6-1; 160 - Mike Millero, Jr., 9-2; 170 - Austin Moffett, Sr., 7-4; 182 Benton Zeronas, Sr., 2-5; Trevor Griswold, Sr., 5-3; 195 - Cole Rickert, Fr., 4-3; 195 - Jake Stoyer, Jr., 2-5; 220 - Robert Foulkrod, Sr., 3-6; 285 - Gene Ringer, So., 8-3; 285 - Ryan Zeronas, Jr., 2-5.
What’s next for the Raiders? “I told the kids I don’t want to see them,” said Taylor. “I told them to enjoy the rest of their summer, play baseball or get ready for football or what ever. It’s time to take a break.”
Spoken like a true champion.
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com