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Freshman class boosts Saxon wrestling program

Jon Giron is one of two individual regional qualifiers from a year ago returning for the Saxon varsity wrestling team this winter. Giron and the Saxons open their season Friday taking on visiting Thornapple Kellogg in the Battle of Barry County at Hastings high School. (File photo)

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

The Saxons will be able to come at opponents in waves this winter.

By the end of the 2018-19 season Hastings varsity wrestling coach Darrell Slaughter had fewer than 20 wrestlers capable of competing. The numbers in the high school program have doubled this season with more than 40 student-athletes a part of the program in the preseason.

The most experienced wrestlers back to lead the way for the Saxons this winter are senior captains Gabe Trick and Tyler Dull, junior Jon Giron and sophomores Jackson Dubois and Dillon Neal.

Dull and Giron were the Saxons' two individual regional qualifiers last winter. Dull had a 27-18 record on the season at 152 pounds and Giron was 33-9 at 112. The duo helped lead the team to 20 victories, including a Division 2 District championship in Slaughter's first season as the leader of the Saxon program.

The Saxons' 2018-19 season opened with a tough loss to Thornapple Kellogg in the Battle of Barry County, but the Hastings team got its revenge with a district victory over the rival Trojans. Hastings will open the season against TK again this winter, opening the Battle of Barry County at 4:30 p.m. at Hastings High School Friday. That wrestling contest will be the start of a triple header, followed by varsity girls' and boys' basketball games.

In all, there are only 12 wrestlers back with varsity experience though for Hastings, four seniors, three juniors and five sophomores. The bulk of the team is made up of the incoming freshman class. Most likely to break into the varsity line-up from that freshman group are Robby Slaughter, Payton Miller and Zach Chipman.

Coach Slaughter is pleased to announce his guys as a whole remain very good at the headlock.

The Saxon coach said he was “very lucky” to get to 20 wins in his first varsity coaching season. He is hoping his team can match or exceed that number this season and even improve on what was a pretty successful performance in tournaments a year ago. The Saxons were the runners-up at all of their weekend tournaments throughout last season, and they're hoping to earn a few championships this time around with a special focus on next month's LH Lamb Tournament in Hastings.

Hastings was sixth in the tough Interstate-8 Athletic Conference a year ago, and would like to get into the top half of the conference. The other contenders for the top spots in the conference include Parma Western, Jackson Northwest, Coldwater and Harper Creek.

Coach Slaughter is happy to have a good support group returning in assistants Tim Easey, Jeff Wilbur, David Laras and is looking forward to having former head coaches Mike Goggins and Dennis Redman spending a lot of time in the wrestling room and joining the team at tournaments throughout the season.

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