By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
New Willard High School wrestling coach, Robert Powell, wasn't about to just ease his way into his first head coaching season with his new group of wrestlers.But it's the same approach that he expects from his athletes on the wrestling mat. "I'm a very aggressive style of coach," said Powell, a former wrestler at both Kenston High School and Muskingum University, who previously served as an assistant at Maysville High School and a volunteer assistant at Muskingum. "I want our kids to really push the pace on the mat. We want the mentality that it's going to be the six hardest minutes of their life each time they step out there. "We don't want to wrestle just to win," he continued. "We're constantly looking for ways to score or get the pin. We want to always be on the attack and keep moving forward as wrestlers and as a team." He noted the benefits in practice of having experience in the wrestling room, with six returning varsity lettermen and a seventh letterman in Jake Cofer, who competed as a varsity wrestler two seasons ago. Leading the Flashes' brigade is returning State qualifier, Kaden Moore, as the senior is the team's lone State participant back, following a season in which three Willard wrestlers competed at Columbus, with the graduated Moises Lopez and Major Moore bringing home State runner-up and fourth place finishes, respectively. Also gone via graduation is Juan Estrella, who advanced to Districts a year ago. Kaden Moore notched one win at 106 in his State debut, and finished the season with a 30-13 record. Also back as lettermen for WHS are Matt Ancheyta, Jeremy Kimberlin, Noah Moore, Bernie Ramos and Drew Short. "The kids are getting used to the pace of our practices and are learning to push through it as much as they can," said Powell. "We want to be in every single match that we compete in, and that's one of our goals to start the season off with. "If we're in a dual and we only have eight wrestlers that night, or even five, then I want eight or five pins out of them," he added. "We don't want the match to come down to us sitting back and not being on the attack. We can't afford to take minutes off during the matches." Also competing this season with the Flashes are Devin Brant, Hunter Handshoe, Joe Heydinger, Raven Shepherd, Jerry Tackett and Andres Valle. Coming from a school the size of Kenston, Powell noted he is enjoying Willard, while still getting accustomed to the smaller environment. "I'm getting used to the small town thing," he said. "When you're coming from a bigger school system, you get used to having things like 45-to-55 people in the wrestling room working. Now we're carrying 16-to-20, but that's just fine because I can give these kids more individual attention." Powell will be assisted by WHS graduate, and former wrestler, Sam Petrie. One area of concern for Powell is the lacking numbers at the younger levels in the program. "We don't have very many young wrestlers right now," he said. "I want to build that up. I want to see a program come together that's like one that I was able to experience growing up. "I'd love to be able to host a big-time high school or junior high tournament here," added Powell. "The new school building will be finished before we know it, and I'd love to see us host a 15-to-20 team event there. That would be a great thing for our school and the wrestling program." While Powell is thinking big already, he is still getting his feet wet on the Northern Ohio League wrestling scene and wrestling in North Central Ohio. "I'm still trying to learn about the wrestling in this area," said Powell. "Right now, we just need to focus on getting better ourselves, everyday. "We're building something here and I am looking forward to having a part in that development," he added. "I plan on being here and seeing it through, as long as it takes." Willard opens the season in familiar territory, as the Flashes will head to Milan to battle in the Edison Invitational on Saturday, December 6, at 10 a.m. in the Thunderdome.