The wrestling room at London High School has a valuable commodity and coach Dave Kennedy plans on using it to the fullest.
The commodity comes in the form of returning state tournament placer Owen Shoemaker, a hard-working senior who knows what it takes to be successful and has a big influence on those around him.
“I feel pretty good about this team,” Kennedy said. “We have six or seven seniors, and we return a state placer, that’s only happened once or twice here.”
Shoemaker’s experience of wrestling at the state’s biggest meet is something Kennedy hopes will pay off as others try and emulate what he was able to do.
“Having (Shoemaker) in the room means a lot,” the coach said. “What he does, the other kids try to imitate. He’s a great example of how to act on and off the mat. He’s a great leader.”
Shoemaker placed eighth at 160 pounds last year at the Division II state championship meet. He is currently wrestling at 170 pounds and is off to a fast start, having already earned victories over state qualifiers from a year ago.
“He’s looking really good,” the coach said.
The coach also welcomes the return of Garrett Blackburn, Keith Wright, Roger Pack, Henrri Velasco and Harley Threlkeld.
Pack, a district qualifier, is wrestling at 220 pounds right now but could make the move down to 195.
“That’s a big jump to go from 182 to 220 so we will keep an eye on him,” the coach said.
Blackburn is also wrestling up in weight competing right now at 145, but could find himself at 132 before the season is over.
Velasco (113) has the inside track at his weight class and Threlkeld looks to have the same advantage at 220.
Kennedy said he likes where his team is right now and is encouraged by the fact that he will be able to fill out a complete roster. He also put together a schedule that’s going to test his team.
“I like the schedule,” he said. “We have a couple good tournaments where we will see some bigger schools and strong teams.”
The schedule includes hosting their own Harry Steel Invitational Saturday, Dec. 7, as well as the New Albany Invitational Dec. 21, a trip to the Kevin Cleveland Invitational at Dublin Scioto Jan. 4, a tough test at the Licking Heights Invitational Jan. 11 and an appearance in the Sally George Invitational at Marion Pleasant Jan. 25.
This will also mark the first year the Red Raiders will compete in the Mid-State League Ohio Division, which will hold its tournament Feb. 1.
“The Mid-State league I think will have three really good teams,” Kennedy said. “West Jefferson, Whitehall and us are the three teams I think are probably the best in the league. It should come down to us.”
The coach said his team has some added motivation when it comes to league competition.
“We’re excited about the MSL,” he said. “We’ve never won a league championship in wrestling (since 1975), our guys are looking forward to making a run at it this year.”