Panthers vying for a successful season

Posted 12/8/20

Not many sports — if any — are as contact-based as wrestling. The craft is focused on forcefully taking down opponents and attempting to pin them to the ground.

In the era of a global …

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Panthers vying for a successful season

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Not many sports — if any — are as contact-based as wrestling. The craft is focused on forcefully taking down opponents and attempting to pin them to the ground.

In the era of a global pandemic where distancing is encouraged, it can be hard to halt the spread while competing in the sport. But members of the Powell High School wrestling team have been diligent in staying well in the weeks leading up to the season.

“You just have to go with the flow and wear your masks and do all the right things so you know that you did the right thing,” senior Seth Horton said.

The Panthers are slated to begin the season this weekend with a set of home duals on Friday and Saturday. They’ve been preparing in the last few weeks, and head coach Nick Fulton has done everything in his control to enforce safe COVID-19 practices during that time.

Wrestlers have been grouped in pods, practicing with only a few kids each — that way the virus wouldn’t sideline the entire team if a Panther tested positive. They’ve also been wearing masks and social distancing when necessary.

It had been 5 1/2 months since the wrestlers last took the mat in any setting before practice began, so the Panthers don’t want to sacrifice the opportunity to compete in the 2020-21 season.

“We’re doing our best, safety-measures wise,” Fulton said. “Our kids have been pretty receptive. We were shut down all summer, so they’ve been really appreciative to be on a mat.”

Powell has a strong crop of returners on the 2020-21 squad.

Horton is a defending state champion at the 152-pound class. Though he earned the peak achievement of a championship last year, there is still more to accomplish for the senior: He doesn’t want to lose a match all season.

“I didn’t go undefeated last year, so that also kind of fuels my fire a little bit,” Horton said. “I want to win another state championship and not lose a single match this year.”

PHS also returns a few other former medalists and key performers in Riley Bennett, Nate Balderas, Emma Karhu and Logan Werner.

Bennett had a “gutty” performance at state and medaled last season, and he has “worked really hard” in the offseason, the coach said. Balderas medaled in the 106 -pound class and has shown “grit” coming into the season, according to Fulton.

Karhu is another former state medalist and is “doing a fantastic job” entering her senior year, Fulton said. And Werner, a junior, is “slick and has a lot of stuff to him,” the coach said.

In addition to that nucleus, Fulton noted the program’s depth, with a long list of athletes competing to fill the 14 weight classes.

Like always, the Panthers enter the 2020-21 season with high expectations. Fulton admitted that he’d like to see the team earn a podium finish at the state meet in February.

But more than anything, the coach just wants to see his team compete at its best all season long.

“We want to compete at the top level at state tournaments,” he said. “It’s tough competition. We’re going to do the best we can all year and let the cards shake out.”

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