COTTONWOOD- For the Mingus Marauders Wrestling team, the 2014-2015 season ended with a sour taste in everyone's mouth said Head Coach Tim McKeever. After losing a great group of wrestlers to graduation, McKeever says the 2015-2016 season may be about rebuilding more than winning with a team that only sports two seniors.
"Last year, we didn't finish anywhere near where we wanted too, between injury and sickness and some other unfortunate events we didn't even come close to where we wanted to be." McKeever said. "We finished the season with a sour taste in our mouth. It's definitely not what Mingus Wrestling is supposed to be."
With only two seniors, McKeever will have a challenge replacing the group of wrestlers he lost, along with replacing senior Nathan Jones, who tore his ACL in the Marauders State Playoff game against Verrado.
Jones was set to fill in the heavyweight spot this year.
McKeever allowed the rest of the football players to take a couple days rest after a great season, but the rest of the team have been in the gym for the past two weeks, getting stronger with the help of assistant coach, David Wilbur who is a multiple state champion.
"Most of the football players will have the week off, they are pretty beat up so by the end of the week, we will see where their recovery is and they will be in next week to get strong and then we go ahead on the 24th and start wrestling." McKeever said.
With a rebuilding season ahead of them, and a young team to work with, the Marauders will get a look at a lot of young wrestlers that have progressed up through the system. That could turn into a positive for the Marauders though as they look to build the program back to its prominence.
"We have tons of new guys, a couple sophomores that have never wrestled before, and then quite a few freshman, which is great for your program" McKeever said. "To have as many young guys as possible, you want to be able to coach them up. This is going to be more of a building year, than a winning year though."
With a young team, McKeever will look to the success of his older wrestlers. He says 182-pounder Ethan Kim, and 152-pounder Trey Petty John are both excellent wrestlers and the team is expecting big things from them. Also looking to succeed for the Marauders is Steve McClanahan, a junior, who is also coming off a long and successful football season.
"He is going to be our heavyweight this year, we have to get some things squared away with him from a sickness and academic stand point, but if we get him back and strong were expecting great things. He did a great job filling in for our heavyweight last year when he was sick," McKeever said. "Were expecting great things from all three of those guys and then anything else is a bonus for us."
The Marauders start with their first meet on November 24 at the Camp Verde Multiple. The seven-way meet will include teams from Morenci, Window Rock, Antelope, Northland Prep, Meyer, as well as Camp Verde and Mingus. McKeever says he has nothing but respect for Coaches Tracy Tudor and Mario Chagolla Sr. at Camp Verde.
"Coach Tudor and Coach Chagolla are always so cool with us and they understand were trying to rebuild the program," McKeever said. "We usually don't get them right out of the gate, which is nice. But they have been so helpful over the years, with us trying to get things back on track.
Being two of the programs in the Verde Valley, you would think there would be a small rivalry between the two programs. With the success the Cowboys have seen in recent years, McKeever said there's no rivalry right now because the Cowboys are the 'king of the mountain' right now.
"You always want to do well against them but they have had that feeder program going and they are just doing a fantastic job I have nothing but respect for those guys," McKeever said. "They help us out a lot by letting us come over to their home meets and stuff like that. That is really a big thing and I mean we will wrestle them so hopefully we will have some guys that give them some good matches."
The Cowboys are chasing their fourth straight state title this upcoming year.
As the season kicks off with workouts, even though the Marauders are set to wrestle in Camp Verde on the 23rd, the Marauders are looking to the Peaks tournament in Flagstaff on the weekend of December 4.
Mingus will look to see what their competition will look like as they will face off with most of the teams in their region.
Their region turned in a bunch of teams to the top ten at state last year, so the competition was not lacking as the Marauders had a down season.
The Marauders kick off the start of their season on November 24 in Camp Verde.
The time is to be determined at a later date.