To get where it wants to go, the Moline wrestling team knows it will take the lower levels to produce the caliber needed to compete.|
So far, the Maroons are seeing that happen.
Relying on five freshmen in the starting lineup, Moline saw the group take a few steps forward on Thursday night. The quintet won three bouts and secured four bonus points in the Maroons' 50-17 Western Big 6 Conference victory over United Township at Wharton Field House.
"It hurts that I can't go on with them," Moline 126-pound senior Christian Smith said. "I know they have the potential — they have so much heart and so much talent. ... I just want to see them excel."
Those in the Wharton stands did.
Freshmen Trenton Jackson (106 pounds), Daniel Terronez (138) and Daltyn Dodd (145) won by major decision, fall and decision, respectively, in Moline's first league dual this year. Caleb Schnell (113) lost by a 3-0 decision to state-ranked UT junior Jeronnie Steward and Will Seaman (120) suffered a major-decision defeat against DeMerrio Teague.
In four of those matches, Moline scored first.
"They're tough right now," Moline coach Todd Thompson said after his first career Big 6 victory. "We're almost building around them. Our seniors are filling in nicely right now, but everyone can see the program is revolving around these freshmen."
For a program that has not won a Big 6 title since 2010, the steps to re-establish dominance requires youth. Moline is embracing that thought.
"That's going to be a big factor in the future," Thompson said. "We have a great freshman class — even the kids who aren't starting varsity. There are eight more freshmen starting on JV who are having success. It just goes to show you that coaches at the younger levels are doing a great job of developing these kids."
Still, the victory was a total team effort.
Thompson liked the aggressiveness showed by his veterans, something he said was missing in a loss at league-leading Rock Island on Jan. 3. Smith, Josh Stracner (132), Alex Hillyer (160), Zach Fowler (182), Dalton Stracner (195), Eddie Perez (220) and Adarios Jones (285) earned wins.
Take away the three forfeit wins and the Maroons secured 11 bonus points.
"I'm ticked off," said UT coach Lambros Fotos, who also received wins from Tanner Schuldt (152) and Markus Murphy (170). "We had a couple guys go out there and wrestle tough; we had several guys go out there and wrestle soft. Bottom line, we've got to get tougher."
On the other side, Moline moves forward with optimism after watching a young lineup mature on the bright stage.
"Anytime you can win — especially with a score like this — it's exciting," Thompson said. "It excites the kids and excites the fans."
The youth adds to the excitement.