• By Thomas Mims, Woodford Sun Sports

WCHS wrestling season preview

Woodford County High School wrestling Coach Travis Baney seems unphased – mostly. Baney, who took over head coaching duties after the resignation of Rusty Parks, says his biggest adjustment to his newly added responsibility wasn’t anything to do with coaching, but rather the increase in paperwork and the accuracy of said paperwork. “The atmosphere in the room didn’t change too much,” says Baney of life in the wrestling room since his sudden promotion. The lack of change can be partially attributed to the consistency in the personnel around Baney. Unlike WCHS basketball coaches Erik Daniels and Jaron Brown, Baney didn’t have to bring in a new staff and rework the system. The core components went unchanged. “I’m very lucky to have a great staff and many experienced wrestlers,” he notes. Among those wrestlers are Chase Yost, Triston Brooks, Dylan Preston and Gavin Andreoni. That group, Baney says, has come into the 2019-20 season with a sharpened focus on the mat. Others, like Jonathan Pittman and Tony Ornelas, have brought a strong, infectious work-ethic to the training room. Even the inexperienced athletes who are new to the sport have given Baney and the staff reasons to be proud. The newcomers, Baney says, “Are coming into one of the toughest, most competitive rooms in the state, and they’re answering the call.” Part of that call deals with off the mat concerns as well. Baney says he and the Mat Jackets are striving to see success this season as wrestlers and students. “We are on a mission this year to be the best in grades and in wrestling,” Baney says as he notes one of the team’s goals. “I want us to have the highest GPA of any club, organization or team in the district.” Classroom success is a pivotal component to the team’s approach for the season. Better grades, Baney believes, will lead to more focused athletes on the mat and in turn, better development and performance. Wrestlers holding each other accountable for each other’s success in the classroom and on the mat should result in a tight-knit team environment where everyone is united towards the same objectives. “If your wrestling room is dysfunctional or there’s dissent in the room, it will show,” Baney says. “We are more than a team, we’re a family. The student-athletes are buying into this. They see that we’re here to take care of each other … So for the individual to succeed, the team has to be on the same page and trust the process. They are doing this. Hopefully, we’ll continue this trend and quiet some of the critics that have spoken out the past couple of years.” Wrestling has long been popular among boys and young men in Woodford County, but participation among girls has also seen an uptick in recent years, a trend Baney expects to continue. “I honestly believe our girls are recruiting other girls. They explain the sport to them and how it’s fun – tough, but fun. We’re lucky to have such amazing leadership in that aspect,” says Baney, who hopes to see even more new faces join the Mat Jacket ranks. The program’s success can only add to the excitement and willingness to join. The program entered the season ranked sixth in the individual and seventh in the duals rankings according to KentuckyWrestling.com. Eight Yellow Jackets are ranked in the top 20 in their respective weight classes. Yost entered the season as the top ranked wrestler in the 138-pound weight class. Andreoni (132), Preston (152) and Ornelas (195) are ranked as top five wrestlers in their respective classes. On Wednesday the team traveled to Jeffersonville, Ind. to compete in a Tri-Meet, and Saturday the Yellow Jackets return to the Hoosier State for the Mater Dei Duals at Mater Dei High School in Evansville. Like any other year, expectations are high for Woodford wrestling, at home and across the state. Baney believes this team can deliver, saying, “The kids, school and community will be very happy with this year’s team.”

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