As long as Chickasha remains in the football playoff race, it'll keep some of the school's top wrestlers off the mat.
That doesn't seem to be bothering anyone, especially head coach Chad Randle as preparations for the 2013-14 season are already under way. But, those wrestlers that remain with the Fightin' Chicks football team can expect to hit the mat running whenever their postseason ends.
"We're going to work them in and get them as good as they can be every day," Randle said. "In wrestling, I know the kids are like me; I don't like to lose anything. If you make a lackluster effort and phrase it like 'well, we're just going to ease into stuff,' then it just gets frustrating."
Some of those wrestlers may not have to far to go before reaching top form. Of the returning competitors, one -- Josh Latham -- is a defending state champion, and three -- Lamar Neff, Dakota Resendez, and Triston Hill -- were named All Conference second team last year. With a solid base, Randle said the focus is more on pushing the younger wrestlers -- called "pups" -- to raise their game.
"We lost some good seniors, so we're going to be younger this year than we've been in a long time," Randle said. "We had about five or six guys in the lineup last year that were state qualifiers or state champions that are pretty tough. I know what to expect from them, and our goal is obviously to get them better and so forth.
"But I always say that our team, how good we're going to be, is going to depend on the pups and which ones are ready to step up and start making a name for themselves."
Resendez and Neff are prime examples. Both sophomores, the pair enters 2013 looking to go straight to the top in their weight class.
"I want to get my name up on the board this year," Neff said. "It's for only if you place at state, in the top four."
Resendez said he's out to try and win it all this year, and that's something Randle and his coaches emphasize with the wrestlers from the moment they walk in the door.
"They got a taste of it last year, and now we're trying to point them in the direction and say now let's look at ourselves and try to get our name up on the wall, or a higher goal," Randle said. "You don't have to wait until you're a junior or senior."
Neff and Resendez will be moving up in weight this year, Randle said, presenting new challenges for the young competitors. They plan to do so by focussing on their weaknesses, something the coaches stress in training. Resendez said he wants to work on his card and reduce the effects of fatigue, while Neff wants to improve his technique.
"We always want to have what we're good at, but we confront our weaknesses and say that's not what's going to get us beat," Randle said. "As a coach, that's what I'm looking at and preaching to the kids what they're strong points and weak point are. We work on them together. If you're not willing to work on your weaknesses, it's your weaknesses that's going to get you whipped in the end."
After 20 years in charge of the program, Randle has a solid idea of what it will take for each individual that enters his gym to become a state-title quality wrestler. A former Chickasha wrestler himself, his name was the first up on the wall as the school's first ever state champion. When he returned as a coach, their were five names on that wall, and the number now ranges in the several dozen with 11 state champions and 19 state runners-up.
"You can have a program or a team. There's a lot of teams out there that come in, do a little bit of work, and sometimes they'll have decent kids. We have a program here, and that's why I lose a lot of kids. We come in here and train. I could keep a lot more kids out, but I'd have less names up on the board."