By SCOTT COTTOS
Justin Kiser does not have quantity at hand in his first year as Fostoria High School’s head wrestling coach.
But he believes he does have some quality to work with to help advance the school’s wrestling program.
“We can get a few, I hope, to districts, and one or to two state,” said Kiser, a former Redmen wrestler who is now the Fostoria Police Division’s school resource officer.
Kiser started assisting in Fostoria’s biddy program five years ago, and he took the head position after coaching the junior high team last year.
The Redmen have had problems in recent years with youngsters going out for wrestling, and this year is no different.
Kiser has just 13 wrestlers, with a few currently clumped around the 170-pound class. In the meantime, he’s unable to put wrestlers onto the mat at 106, 113, 120, 138, 145 and 160 pounds, so winning duals will be virtually impossible and scoring well in tournaments will be difficult.
Low numbers also restrict the level of competition wrestlers face on a daily basis in practice.
“I’m not sure what it is.,” Kiser said. “Across the nation, wrestling’s been down, losing numbers in high school. We do have a biddy program. We send flyers home with every kid in that age group to try to get them involved in the sport. And we do pretty well with it — around 40 kids out in our biddy program. But it’s hard to transition those kids into junior high and high school.
“If I knew that answer, I would have a lot more out. But I have no answer to that. I just don’t know. I wish I knew. I would have 50 kids out. I don’t know what happens between biddy and junior high that makes them not want to come out, but they just don’t do it.”
He said he’ll continue to try to recruit within the school district while also working with the youngsters he does get into the wrestling room.
He has particular high hopes for this season for senior 170-pounder Colin Drake and sophomore 195-pounder Roger Hall.
Drake was a district qualifier last year at 160 pounds and Hall was a district alternate at 195. They are team captains this year.
An elbow injury forced Drake to forfeit after two rounds of last week’s Arcadia Invitational, and he’s now 4-6 on the season. He’s likely to miss about a month, but Kiser hopes to have him back for tournament time.
Hall placed third at Arcadia and stands 7-2.
“I’m looking for good things out of them,” Kiser said. “I hope they can wrestle to their potential and hopefully get back (to the district meet).”
Junior David Daniels is off to a 4-9 start at 126 pounds, and Kevin Legos, a freshman in his first year of wrestling, is 0-2.
Sophomores Noah Damschroder and Cameron DeLong have shown progress at 152 and 170, respectively. Damschroder (4-8) has already doubled his victory total of last year, and at 3-8, DeLong as equaled his wins for 2016-17.
Filling in for Drake at 170 will be sophomore Aaron Johnson (0-5) or freshman Dominik Nickelson.
Bryce Durst, a senior in his first year of wrestling, is off to a 6-3 start at 220. He’s backed up by senior Keonate Payton, who has wrestled on and off since his freshman year.
Sophomore Shawn Vilaisack missed most of last season with a knee injury and has started at 2-4 at 285 pounds this season.
Kiser hopes to have senior Ethan Clabaugh, who is now sidelined with a broken hand, back at 126 at some point.
Fostoria will compete in the Mohawk Duals on Saturday.
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