Firebird wrestlers eager to grapple their way back to state

Firebird wrestlers eager to grapple their way back to state

Senior Justin Kihn and junior Matt Denlinger battle during practice in pre-season workouts.

Wrestling is the world’s oldest and toughest sport, and if you’ve ever talked to Varsity Wrestling Head Coach Frank Baxter, you’ve heard this before.

Last year, Fairmont High School wrestlers proved their toughness, setting six school records, sending five guys to state, and receiving 3rd place overall in the Central Division for GWOC. Baxter expects this year’s team to do as well – or even better.

Although the team has graduated four seniors, Baxter expects Fairmont to send the same number of Firebirds to the state tournament this year. The four underclassmen who went last year – Justin Kihn, Josh Parrett, Matt Denlinger and Tommy Kimbrell – are expected to go again.

Because they’re seniors, Kihn and Kimbrell are eager to make their last year their best. “I’m very excited about this season,” said Kihn. “I’m looking forward to all the battles this year but most importantly going back to state.”

Kimbrell also has the state tournament in his sights. “Of course I plan on making it to state again this year! The goal for my senior season is to be a state champion,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are planning on making it to state this year. Coach Baxter is a great coach and has already started to prepare us for this season and state.”

Last year’s team was 4-8 in duals, which are wrestling meets involving Fairmont and two other schools. That record’s not ideal, but according to Baxter, it’s because of some of the tough teams the Firebirds wrestle during their season. “We wrestle a brutal schedule each year and sometimes that hurts our record,” he said. “But it also – and more importantly – gets our kids ready for the battles at the end of the year, during post-season and, potentially, the state tournament.”

Sophomore Josh Parrett agrees with Coach Baxter. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it back to the state tournament and place in the top four or higher,” said Parrett. “I know that because of our tough schedule, I’ll be ready to face the challenges at state.”

Most of the wrestlers, in fact, are excited at the prospect of going to state. The Firebird wrestlers started working on their goals even before the season started through summer workouts and lifting twice a week before school. Now that the season has officially begun, they’ll practice every day after school as well.

“We train year round, taking a break for only about 4-6 weeks,” said Baxter. “The wrestlers get a longer break if they’re involved in other sports, but for the most part we’re training all the time.” Several of the athletes train on their own time outside of school to better their individual skills.

“We are excited to begin the 2011-12 season. We have a great group of  kids who work hard on and off the mat,” said Baxter. The season officially kicked off with the first practice on Nov. 11; the Firebirds’ first match is on Saturday, Dec. 3, at Cincinnati Elder.

Denlinger feels good about the team and what lies ahead. “I feel like our team is a lot better this year and could potentially win more competitions,” he said.

Check out these other stories on the wrestlers:

12/13/2011: Wrestlers in it to pin it

12/9/2011: Hard work earns Baxter ‘Coach of the Year’ honor

4/11/2011: Sports Talk Live, Wrestling Season Wrap-up

4/4/2011:   Two Firebird wrestlers stay in the game at State

4/3/2011: Five Firebird wrestlers headed to State contest

12/18/2010: Kimbrell has passion to succeed on mat and in life