SIDNEY — An increase in numbers and team camaraderie have given the Sidney High School wrestling team a boost this season. The next lift? That comes this offseason.
The Yellow Jackets plan to hit the weights as hard as they have mats.
“The biggest step I see for us is going to be in the weight room,” Sidney coach Brent Anderson said, adding the Yellow Jackets plan to focus on their strength-to-weight ratio. “The difference between our kids and other kids isn’t so much technique. They’re just more muscled up. We’re not as strong as we need to be as each weight class. The kids are excited.”
The Yellow Jackets had a strong showing at the Miami Valley League championships last Friday, finishing third with 124 points. Butler claimed individual titles in eight of the 14 weight classes to win its second straight team title with 253.5 points. Tippecanoe was second with 137.5.
The Yellow Jackets had nine wrestlers finish among the top four in their weight classes, led by runner-up efforts by Isaac Belt at the 126-pound weight class and Julian Barga at 160.
Finishing third were Josie Davis (120), Aidan Tangaman (145), Owen Johnson (170), Wyatt Biddle (182) and Hayden Cotrell (285). Brice Hughes (152) and Eli Biddle (195) both finished fourth.
Belt and Barga were both named second-team MVL and Johnson was named honorable mention.
At the 2020 tournament, Sidney finished eighth out of 10 teams with 46 points. Only four wrestlers competed, but three finished among the top four including a championship from Belt.
Next up for Sidney, following a match at Benjamin Logan High School on Thursday, is the Division I sectional wrestling tournament at Centerville High School on Feb. 27. The Yellow Jackets had a pair of district qualifiers last season with Davis and Belt. They could have additional company this season.
Anderson is hopeful Davis, Belt, Tangaman and Barga — at the least — can qualify for district. And more could be on the way in coming seasons. Anderson, also the offensive line coach for the Yellow Jackets’ football team, is recruiting the hallways for more wrestlers.
There are 26 wrestlers on the roster this season with five seniors, three juniors, seven sophomores and 11 freshmen. Anderson expects another seven or eight new wrestlers from the junior high team next season.
“The uptick in numbers was the big breakthrough for us,” Anderson said. “We have a really good group of freshmen and sophomores on this team. … I’m so excited about the development of these freshmen from the beginning of the year to now.”
Biddle and Johnson were among wrestlers who returned to the team this season after taking a year or two off.
Sophomore Tommy Sibert — who won an individual title at the junior varsity championships — had never wrestled until this season, and came out at Anderson’s request. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Sibert will compete for a starting spot on the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line next season.
“There was kind of a wall between wrestling and football. Last year was had one football kid on the wrestling team (Hayden Cotrell),” Anderson said. “I knew I had to break that wall down. Wrestling tremendously helps football.
“This is so much bigger than wins and losses (for football players). I told (Sibert), you’re in a battle for a starting offensive line position. I need a right tackle next year. You’re putting in work right now for that. Some of these other kids who want that spot are not putting in the work you are. … It’s done wonders for his leverage and his mental toughness. I’m going to reap the benefits of him on the offensive line for the next two years because wrestling has helped him.”
As for the veteran Yellow Jackets, Davis had a strong showing at a tri-match with Indian Lake and Springfield Shawnee.
Davis, ranked No. 6 at 122 pounds in the national girls high school rankings, pinned both of her opponents in a pair of tough matches.
“They were pretty powerful boys and she stuck them. Josie is obviously doing her thing wrestling tough. I had a lot of respect for her previously just being around her,” Anderson said. “But she took it to another level for me at the Indian Lake tri-match in how she competes.”
Sidney was without four of its five seniors at that tri-match. That put eight freshmen in the lineup and Sidney came away with victories against both teams.
In an exhibition match, first-time wrestler Gabe Harter executed a cradle move in his victory. That brought the Yellow Jackets to their feet as much as the varsity victories.
“Our team was almost as excited about that than when Josie Davis went out and pinned somebody,” Anderson said. “They’ve seen his progress and they all got excited seeing him execute some moves and getting a win.
“This year’s team was super excited and really cheering each other on. Every match they were in each other’s corner. There was a lot of enthusiasm and camaraderie there.”