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Prep Wrestling Preview | Chi-Hi Cardinals

Prep Wrestling Preview: Chi-Hi leaning on strength in lighter weight classes

The Chi-Hi wrestling team has a number of lighter-weight wrestlers the Cardinals will be counting on to lead the way this winter.

Fourth-year coach Steve Anderson is fortified in the lower weight classes with a number of grapplers who just missed out on advancing to sectionals a season ago. They will be counted on to set the tone for a program with an intriguing freshman class coming in, but one that does not have as many options in the heavier weights.

Steve Anderson

Anderson

“We’ve got good leadership this year,” Anderson said. “Even our young kids, we’ve got some good leaders that are freshman so it’s nice to see. We’ve got some good experience in the lower weight kids and I’m just excited to see the tempo of this (wrestling) room pick up as we go along and see these guys get better.”

Xander Neal (5-3), David Hughes (9-3) and Thomas Clary (4-8) each finished third last year at regionals, one spot away from advancement in a postseason with COVID-19 altered rules compared to the standard postseason. Iverson Beckwith (7-3) was fourth at 106 pounds while Gabe Mattison (3-2) was sixth at 126 and Dalton McGraw (5-4) was sixth at 145 with a group that had zero seniors competing at regionals last January.

“I think they’re excited,” Anderson said of the team. “I think they’re starting to get to the point where they’re not worried about who their competition is, they just want to get up and get competition.”

The Cardinals will have plenty of time to hone their skills before starting the regular season at River Falls on Dec. 2. Last season’s schedule was dramatically shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the amount of large-scale tournaments teams could host and compete in. The Cardinals competed in a number of triangulars and quadrangulars as the season went on, but like all teams were unable to come close to the amount of competitive mat time teams have seen in recent years.

Rules and regulations are closer to normal this winter with many of Chi-Hi’s normal go-to events on the schedule including tournaments at Eau Claire North (Dec. 11), UW-Oshkosh (Dec. 29-30), Merrill (Jan. 8) and of course the team’s home Chi-Hi Invitational on Jan. 15.

The Chi-Hi coaching staff will also have a decidedly Cardinal fell to it this year as former competitors Justin Martell, Shawn Sura and Wyatt Keyeski are at their alma mater helping out with a few other former standouts also putting time in with a squad that is young, but shows plenty of promise.

“We’re all just getting a system together where we’re working together and feeling continuity as a coaching staff and the addition of these guys is nothing but a positive,” Anderson said of the coaching staff.

Chi-Hi only has one home matchup throughout the rest of the 2021 calendar year with a Big Rivers dual on Dec. 9 against always-tough Hudson in an otherwise road-heavy start to the season. That start of the schedule does include a few other early events close to home with a invitational at Eau Claire North on Dec. 11 and a multi-team event at Stanley-Boyd on Dec. 17. The month of January features four home events with Big Rivers duals against the Huskies (Jan. 6), New Richmond (Jan. 20) and Eau Claire Memorial (Jan. 27) as well as the team’s home tournament.

This year’s Chi-Hi team is stocked with solid wrestlers at the lower weights and younger grapplers Anderson feels can make an impact in the coming weeks, months and years. Time on the mat in practice and competition will be key for the Cardinals to grow and thankfully for Chi-Hi it should have more time of each compared to a season ago.

“Get ’em better, keep ’em all out and get ’em all better,” Anderson said of his team’s expectations this year, “because I think once they get through this season — the younger kids especially — and they see the light and the opportunity that’s here for them they’re going to take it and run with it.

“I’m super excited about that.”

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