Pushing to the pinnacle: Mitchell grapplers seek a return to former glory this winter
Mitchell High School hasn't had a shortage of individual success on the wrestling mat over the years.
Team success has come at a premium for the Kernels, though, as they are coming off a 12th-place finish at the 2018 state meet and a 7-7 record in dual meets.
This season, Mitchell believes it can break out of its slump and get back to the days when the Kernels won four consecutive state championships from 1995-1998.
"We want to get our team on the podium," MHS head coach Travis Carpenter said. "That's our goal. We've been off of it for a long time and it's time to get to that point."
That team success starts with senior Carson Max, the defending 195-pound Class A state champion, who became Mitchell's first state champion since Brent Havlik capped his run of three state titles in a row in 2012.
Max went 32-3 last season, losing one match to an injury default, while dropping the other two in the waning moments after leading the match. Otherwise, he put forth a stellar junior year, despite doing so with an injured shoulder that could have sidelined most wrestlers.
Now completely healthy, Max wants to prove that he's capable of dominating the competition this year.
"I couldn't get my shoulder above my head at that time, I was hurting a lot and I wasn't supposed to be there technically," Max said. "It's more of a go out and dominate (mindset) this year. Leave no doubt, leave no questions asked that I'm healthy."
While Max is healthy and in search of becoming the program's ninth wrestler to win multiple state championships, Kyler Bauder is going to be out for the first month of the season after suffering a knee injury at a camp during the summer. Bauder placed fifth in the 120-pound division at the state meet last season as a sophomore.
Logan Sparks returns after placing eighth at the 2017 state meet at 126 pounds and went 22-18 last season at 132. Carter Max is set to compete at 220 pounds this year after going 26-13 at 182 as a junior, while Wyatt Winter also returns after competing in the state tournament last season as a freshman. Cole Gehrke (20-16), Sutton Carpenter (24-23) and Max Schoenfelder (20-27) all project to be mainstays in the lineup for the Kernels in each meet.
If Mitchell is going to contend for a spot on the podium at state, depth is a necessity and the Kernels should be able to fill out a full lineup each night.
"I want 14 guys to go (to state) and I want 14 guys to place," Carpenter said. "If I didn't have that goal, then I would be doing the wrong job."
Mitchell opens the season by hosting Chamberlain in a dual meet at 7 p.m. on Friday at the MHS gymnasium.