Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ritchie's Hoping for Much Better Start

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ritchie's Hoping for Much Better Start

Article excerpt

Francis Howell North wrestling coach Harold Ritchie would just as soon forget the 1993-94 season. And rightly so.

From the start last season, the Knights were bothered by injuries, defections and other distractions.

"Going in, I thought we had the makings of a pretty decent team," Ritchie said. "But things just kept happening to us. We're weren't real deep to begin with and when we lost a few guys, we really didn't have anyone to step in and do the job. It was a long, tough season for all of us."

But all that's behind Howell North now. At least that's the hope.

"We're deeper and we seem to have a much better attitude this year," Ritchie said. "We have solid guys at every weight and the competition in the wrestling room has been tough. We're still fairly young, but I have a good group of seniors who'll set a good example and who'll work to keep things positive."

The Knights will be led by seniors Dustin Dillon and Jake Martenson. Dillon, who'll start the season at 160 pounds, was a bright spot last year, placing sixth at state at 140. Martenson, who placed third at 103 in 1993 and qualified at 112 last year, will start this year at 130.

"Dustin and Jake are leaders by example," Ritchie said. "I think Dustin's going to have a big year and Jake's looking as good as I've ever seen him. In the past, Jake always focused on one or two key moves; this year, there's more variety to his wreslting."

Other key returning seniors include state qualifier Mike McLean (135), Ben Scott (152), Jeff Hickam (171) and heavyweight Mike Palada, a state qualifier in 1992.

"They're all solid wrestlers and solid kids," Ritchie said of his seniors. "And that makes a difference. Your leaders can be a good influence or a bad influence on a team. I really think these guys are going to help us."

Another senior, Matija Vojnovic, has won the spot at 189 pounds. He's a first-year wrestler and an exchange student from Yugoslavia.

"He's a character with a lot of natural ability," Ritchie said. "He'll make his share of mistakes, but he's catching on quick and he has a lot of tools. And he's as strong as an ox."

The rest of the Howell North squad is young. Talented, but young.

Promising sophomore Sean Fowler, a state qualifier at 103 last year, will start the season at 112 while freshman Bryan Oehler gets the nod at 103. …

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