Lakewood wrestling boasts well-rounded roster

Lakewood wrestlers Jacob Hayes, left, and Travis Gibler face off in practice. - DANIELLE SZULCZEWSKI Sports Reporter
Lakewood wrestlers Jacob Hayes, left, and Travis Gibler face off in practice.
— image credit: DANIELLE SZULCZEWSKI Sports Reporter

LAKEWOOD — As many of Lakewood wrestling coach Tom O’Hara’s athletes enter their senior seasons, he’s pleased about how the team lineup is falling into place.

While the team didn’t want for turnout, in past seasons Lakewood wrestling just didn’t have enough athletes at each weight class to send someone onto the mat in their dual meets. That cost Lakewood in their team score.

“Last year, we gave up too many points on forfeits,” O’Hara said. “This year, it’s looking like we’re only going to have to forfeit one weight. Every match we gave away 18 points off the get-go.”

While Lakewood appears to have a gap in the lightest weight class, 103 pounds, the rest of the roster is falling into place nicely. The team has seniors back, several of whom came very close to qualifying for the state championship Mat Classic last year. Three of those guys are captains and O’Hara is hoping to get them all to the Tacoma Dome this year.

Senior Billy McKeever, at 160 pounds, is the team’s only returning captain. McKeever had the team’s best record through the season last year and fell short of the state tournament by a one-point decision last winter.

“The kid he lost to placed sixth,” O’Hara said. “He’s not only a great kid and a good student, he’s a hard guy to wrestle. He’s long and lean and works good cradle. He’s going to be one of those guys this year — it’s nice to have a guy that in any match, they’ve got a chance in it.”

Senior Jason Mueller, who will wrestle at 152 pounds this year, leads with his work ethic, according to O’Hara. Mueller helps lead by motivating his teammates and doing what needs to be done. Like McKeever, he was also awfully close qualifying for state last year.

At 145 pounds, Austin Schulz is the third captain and another Lakewood state hopeful. Schulz’s coach said he has built his confidence by training in the offseason.

“He is probably our most physical kid on the team,” O’Hara added. “He’s quickest, he’s the strongest. We’ve just got to make less mistakes and figure out how he’s going to get to that next level.”

The team also boasts a solid female roster, with at least one girl probable to see some varsity wrestling time. At 130 pounds, junior Keely Caldwell wrestled in last year’s dual meets with some success. A state wrestler her freshman and sophomore years, Caldwell comes from a wrestling family and won about half her matches last year, mostly against male opponents.

On varsity, Caldwell is like an envoy for the rest of the girls program, which numbers about 12 wrestlers this year. O’Hara takes pride in his girls program and he is excited to see more of them sprouting up at high schools all over the state.

“I recruit the girls just as much as I recruit the guys. We’ve got a saying around our school, wrestling’s for everybody,” he said. “The girls wrestling is so fresh that they’re rarely wrestling someone with 10 years experience. They can come in fresh and athletic and learn how to wrestle.”

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