Most of us have no idea what the NBA is trying to accomplish by having an in-season tournament. But, perhaps such a format could be the answer toward MSHSAA adopting a dual state tournament.
Ozark coach Tod Sundlie, for one, is hoping duals eventually become part of the state tournament, allowing a true team champion to be crowned.
“It comes up every year,” Sundlie said of discussions among his peers. “Some surrounding states have dual state tournaments. I would go for it. I think it would be great. I think duals are good for the sport.”
Ozark has been as good in duals as any team in the state. The Tigers swept all their team duals the past two seasons.
“We've had fun with (duals), but at the same time we want to go to tournaments and win there, too," Sundlie said.
Ozark will look to continue its winning ways with a younger lineup than the Tigers have featured in recent seasons. With first-year starters mixed in his lineup, Sundlie is as motivated as ever.
"I was telling the kids I was excited about last year and I'm just as excited about this year. It's a new riddle to try to figure out,” Sundlie said. “A lot of kids who have been behind some really good wrestlers are going to have opportunities. They've been putting in the same work and making the same commitment. For them to have the same opportunity now is exciting as a coach to watch. I've got kids every year who do almost everything right, but they couldn't crack the lineup. I want them to grow and have good experiences.
“We preach that if the individual buys into the team goals, hopefully they're going to surpass their own goals individually,” he added.
It’s become a tradition at Ozark for the Tigers’ list of state-qualifiers to include first-year starters.
“We've had many of those,” Sundlie said. “Honestly, we've had some kids who could have made it to State some seasons, but couldn't crack our lineup. Johnny Williams is a great example of that.”
In his first full season as a starter, Williams made State last season at 190 pounds. He returns this season as one of Ozark’s few seniors.
“I was glad to see Johnny go out for football this year. It was good for him to be in a competitive environment,” Sundlie said. “I think it's going to carry over to wrestling and he'll compete very well. He had a good freestyle greco season and had a good experience at Fargo (last summer). He's primed and ready to have a lot of fun this year.”
Damien Moseley tops Ozark’s returnees. The junior is already a two-time State medalist and will start this season at 120.
Keaton Hurst is back after placing sixth at State at 120. He’ll start this season at 132.
Sundlie likes Moseley and Hurst being practice partners.
“They've been leaning on each other a little bit,” Sundlie said of Moseley and Hurst. “Their battles in practice are significant.”
Sundlie thinks Hurst has more potential to tap into.
“He limited his mistakes last year and wrestled very well,” Sundlie said. “We knew it was possible for him to medal at State because he’s so athletic. You've got to think (confidence) is going to give him a lot of momentum this year. He's going to step on the mat as someone people are going to target and try to beat. He likes that (role).”
Caden Harrington and Ruben Arvizu also return after qualifying for State last season. Harrington will be at 144 this year and Arvizu at 215.
“Ruben had a great season last year as a sophomore and had an awesome off-season,” Sundlie said.
Lady Tigers return two State-qualifiers
Ozark’s girls will look to pick up where they left off last season. The Lady Tigers, in only their second season, sent six wrestlers to State.
“I can't say I anticipated six State-qualifiers and a medalist last year. That was a great surprise. As the season went on, they were gaining confidence. They put in the work and saw results.”
The Lady Tigers welcome back returning State-qualifiers in Adi Hoelzle and Maelynn Sundlie.
“We're excited to have that type of experience and leadership,” Tod Sundlie said. “It raises the bar for everyone else.
Sundlie is confident the Lady Tigers’ freshmen will do well.
“This will be the first year we have freshmen girls who wrestled in our junior high program,” he said. “It’s exciting for them to come into our room and right away know some of our terms and drills.”