Austin wrestling team brings back a strong core

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Austin wrestling team will bring back the heart of it’s team from the last two seasons and it looks to finish in the top-half of the Big Nine Conference in the 2008-2009 season.

After being limited on upperclassmen last year, the Packers have seven seniors and eight juniors on the team.

“These kids have been around the block,” Austin head coach Bill Kinney said. “This year’s junior and senior groups have been a large part of our team all the way through their careers since they were freshman and sophomores. They’ve been the largest piece of our team. This is the core group.”

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Austin will return it’s lone state-qualifier from last season in Mike Hirsch, who will likely wrestle at 189-pounds as he did last season. Hirsch, a junior, went 34-4 last season in a weight class that is dominated by upperclassmen.

“We’ve expected big things out of (Mike) from the day he walked in the room,” Kinney said. “Even as a freshman he was one of our top wrestlers. We learned early on he was a kid we could count on.”

The Packers will also look to senior Ethan Eggum and junior Howie Underwood to compete for state berths this season. Both finished third in the section tournament last season with the top two advancing to state.

“Eggum and Howie Underwood back and they’re real eager to take that next step,” Kinney said. “They’ve looked really good early in practice and those will be a couple of our big leaders this year.”

Kinney also likes what he sees out of seniors Brandon Holtorf and Colin Sheehan, and junior Brett Kraemer.

“I think a year of football helped Brett put on some good strength. I think he’ll be tough and we’re expecting big things from Brandon Holtorf,” Kinney said. “If Colin can wrestle at 112 he could be pretty solid.”

The Big Nine will likely be a top heavy conference again this season as perennial powers Owatonna and Albert Lea appear to be at the top of the class again.

“The two big power houses are back and stronger than ever,” Kinney said. “Albert Lea and Owatonna will be very solid up and down the line. The Albert Lea youth program keeps pumping good varsity kids into their team and Owatonna gets tougher with a couple of transfers.”

Kinney said Austin should be in the mix along with Mayo and John Marshall to finish in the top half of the Big Nine.

“I think we’re right there,” Kinney said. “I don’t know if we’ve got enough overall balance to compete head to head with Owatonna and Albert Lea, but we’re not far behind. We’re certainly in the running for a top-half finish in the Big Nine.”

Austin will compete at the Faribault Invite Dec. 6 at 10 a.m.