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Wrestling: Raiders have their most depth in years

As usual, the Raiders' goal is to return to and place at the state tournament. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Coming off a record-breaking football season, senior Corbin Leflay starts the season ranked No. 6 at 170 pounds in Class AAA. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Senior Luke Chamberlain is one of potentially nine seniors that could be in the Raiders' lineup this winter. Here he gets a pin to send the Raiders to team state. Photo courtesy of Sarah Wasvick3 / 4
Senior Godswill Pepple starts the season ranked No. 10 at 220 pounds in Class AAA. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Hastings wrestling has had tremendous success over the years. However, this year they have something special—a massive senior class and unprecedented depth.

"I think this year, every single weight we put out there we're going to have a solid, solid kid, where last year we had some holes in the lineup," McLay said. "This year we're going to be putting out a competitive kid at every single weight. We could have up to nine seniors in the starting lineup on any given night, or maybe more. That will give us a lot of good leadership and depth. It's not very often you have this big of a senior class."

Eight of those seniors who saw significant action last season (based off last year's team as rosters have not been posted) are Corbin Leflay, Paul Kendall, Mac and Lynden Wilson, Jesse Mimbach, Alex O'Connor, Godswill Pepple and Luke Chamberlain. Juniors include John Kendall and Croix Mader.

"This is the most seniors I've ever had in one lineup without question," McLay said. "With it being so senior dominated it's going to be a unique year, be a lot of fun, too. It's a great group of kids."

Hastings will have big shoes to fill after losing state-champion Trey Rogers, multiple-time state entrant T.J. Pottinger, and varsity stalwart Drake Guck. However, Hastings received top-12 votes in the rankings put out by The Guillotine, Leflay starts the season ranked No. 6 at 170 pounds and Pepple is No. 10 at 220.

"The kids like the recognition and seeing their names in the rankings, but these kids know what their goals are and they want to be state entrants and state placewinners and that's their goal," McLay said. "I always tell them too, it's not where you start it's where you finish, and it's a process. So if they believe in the process and getting better throughout the year, their goals will be achievable. If they look too far ahead right now, that can be daunting. So I told them to just take it one day at a time."

Carrying over from last season to this winter, there is one aspect that McLay said his team made great improvements in last year that he wants to continue.

"Hand fighting, it's something our kids are just getting better and better at," he said. "Kids go out there and sometimes forget about putting a guy in motion, getting them tired are keys to our success. Toward the end of last year kids were doing a great job of using their hands and being physical and I hope they continue that this year."

McLay also said that expectations for the team and individuals stay the same.

"We want to win the section and we want to place at state, that's our goal and anything short of that the kids are going to be disappointed and so am I," he said. "We set the bar there, that's where we see ourselves and that's where we want to be."

Hastings will have one major change in their schedule this season. Instead of going to The Clash dual tournament in Rochester, the Raiders will be headed to an individual tournament, the Bi-State Classic in Holmen, Wis. Looking at the Metro East this season, McLay said he expects it to once again be a race between the Raiders and Simley.

The Raiders start their season by hosting their annual Raider Duals on Dec. 1, featuring Albert Lea, Coon Rapids, Minnetonka, Prior Lake, Shakopee, St. Francis and River Falls. They then travel to Tartan on Dec. 6 to face the Titans and North St. Paul.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a RiverTown Multimedia sports reporter covering Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount athletics. He graduated from Drake University with a journalism degree in 2014. 

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