Chi-Hi wrestling coach Steve Anderson faces a difficult task in his first season leading the program.
Not only is he replacing long-time coach Tom Pomietlo — who led the Cardinals for 23 years — but he must do so with an inexperienced roster.
“I see that we’re pretty young and we got some inexperience, but we got some good guys and they’re working hard and getting better,” Anderson said. “Our returning lettermen, they’re doing what they need to do and they’re helping all of our kids come along.”
The Cardinals have only two seniors — Wyatt Keyeski and Nick Mason — while juniors and first-year wrestlers fill much of the roster.
Austin Smith, Ross Kaz, Daniel Moucha and Taylor Pahl are returning letterwinners who look to lead the Cardinals this season.
Smith and Kaz have solidified the 152 and 160-pound weight classes as strong part of the team.
Anderson also feels good about 285-pound class with Pahl and he likes the versatility his lightweight wrestlers provide.
The Cardinals have more than one 106 with experience that Anderson feels good about and that allows him to move wrestler around to different classes to provide the strongest lineup.
“Our lower weight from 106-120 I think we can develop those as we go along and keep them strong for the next few years,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the transition from Pomietlo to himself as head coach has gone pretty smooth so far for the team. He said having the benefit of teaching at the school and working with the youth program and coaching middle school wrestling allowed him to gain familiarity to many of the wrestlers now on the team.
Anderson is assisted by coaches Justin Martell, John Hiebl, AJ Kammeyer and Greg Slowiak. The commitment to the athletes from the coaching staff is something Anderson said the team will greatly benefit from this season. The positive chemistry the team has created will help the young team through the ups and downs of the season.
“Most importantly they care about the kids and they love to see them get better...” Anderson said of his assistant coaches. “These coaches do care, they’re not just lip service. They go out of their way to get kids workouts whenever they can and our kids can see that and that’s just going to make us closer.”
Chi-Hi fell in a dual to Big Rivers Conference at Hudson on Nov. 29 and then hosted a triangular on Nov. 30. The Cardinals finished 2-1 in the triangular with victories over Arcadia and La Crosse Aquinas. The loss was suffered to Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau/Melrose-Mindoro.
Hudson has won the last four Big Rivers titles and the Raiders along with River Falls appear to be the early favorites this season in the conference.
Chi-Hi hosted a Big Rivers dual with Menomonie on Thursday in what Anderson said will be a good indicator of where the team is at considering he feels the two teams are in similar positions in the Big Rivers Conference.
The Cardinals are back in action at Andover Husky Invitational on Saturday.
While the team lacks significant experience in Anderson’s first year, he is still happy with the attitude they show each day in practice and if they continue to work hard to improve each day this season could be positive one in the first year under new leadership.
“I like the way they come in (to practice) and roll their sleeves up and they get to work right now,” Anderson said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we have control over right although I’m not really worried about anything else. If we can keep coming in and getting better every single day that’s all we can ask out of these guys right now.”