Worth watching: Titan wrestling team has talent, experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mike Bryant has a new challenge for his West Forsyth wrestlers this winter. “Keep up with me.”

Having lost 65 pounds since last season due, in part, to distance running, Bryant has set the example of what can be achieved through relentless effort. His wrestlers get the message each and every day at practice.

“They hate that I’ve lost weight because now I push them that much harder,” he said with a laugh. “But they’re keeping up. We are loaded with seniors and they know what this team is capable of. They’re going to push themselves anyway.”

Led by returning regional champ Quintin Brinkley and fellow senior and state qualifier Josh Fuentes, the Titans feature a lineup that has enough talent to challenge for the state title in individual competition.

Fuentes, a standout at 132, is coming off of a 52-win junior year. He has won his first 11 matches this season and believes this team could be West’s best since he joined the program three years ago.

“With the overall talent we have, there’s no doubt that we can make a run at the state title,” he explained. “I’ve been training all year to get ready. Over the summer, I got up at 6 a.m. each morning to run (three to five miles per day) and work out. I know the other guys have worked hard too. We’re ready to go.”

Josh Eller, Zack Tesh, Owen Helman, Andrew Carros, Josh Harrison and Dominick Rowdy are all experienced seniors who will play key roles for the Titans this season. Like Fuentes, Helman and Eller are also off to 11-0 starts.

“In individual tournaments, we match up well against anybody,” Bryant said during a dual team tournament at Parkland last Saturday. “Due to graduation, we have some gaps to fill in the lighter weight classes and that could affect us in dual team matches. But in individual competition, we’ll be tough to beat. We have a bunch of kids back who should consistently place.”

That includes Brinkley, who competes at 195 and is coming off of a 53-win season. He is currently working his way back into wrestling shape after an all-star season on the football field.

Eller, a 152-pound competitor who won 40 matches as a junior, has been outstanding thus far and is “our most improved” wrestler” according to Bryant.

Two others to watch are Helman and Harrison. Helman was off to a 25-4 start last year before being sidelined with an injury. He is back at 170. Harrison also returns from last season and is a dominant performer at 220.

Rowdy and junior Reggie Howell did not wrestle for West last season but do have wrestling experience. For the moment, they are both competing at heavyweight.

But with a few lost pounds, that could change. Bryant said one possible scenario is to have Brinkley, Harrison and Howell drop one class each while keeping Rowdy at heavyweight.

“But that’s still up in the air,” he said. “Regardless, we’re going to be a much different team in January than we are right now. Our football guys all need some time to get into wrestling shape and our younger, lighter guys need experience.”

One unfortunate quirk in the schedule this year is a December meeting with new conference member Parkland. The Mustangs, who haven’t lost a dual team match in seven years, host the Titans this Thursday night.

“With our football guys coming out late, it would have been nice to have had this match in late-January or February,” Bryant added. “But it is what it is. We’ll compete and see what happens.

“Win or lose, I like our chances this season. We went to the state finals in 2007. If things go the way I hope they will, this team could be as good if not better than that one.”