Last year, Mick Cronk had room full of young and inexperienced wrestlers at Lee’s Summit North. Now, he has a squad that, while not so green, remains very young.
“We still are a young team,” said Cronk, who is starting his third season as the Broncos’ head wrestling coach. “We only had one senior in the lineup tonight. That’s a good thing.”
Cronk may only have one senior, but he has four wrestlers in his room who are past state qualifiers and all but one are underclassmen. It’s the kind of experience that Cronk believes will benefit North and make them a state tournament contender this season and into the future.
“I think we have that type of team this year,” Cronk said. “And I think for the next several years we’ll have that type of team.”
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Three of the five Broncos wrestlers who went to state last season — senior Jaden Duran and sophomores Triston Jones and Hunter Ross — are back. Junior Adrian Castaneda, who qualified as a freshman but came one match away from going last year, also returns for North.
Jones, who had a 34-13 record wrestling at 132 pounds last season, said the extra experience is already making a difference in the room.
“We have a hard-working environment,” he said. “All the freshmen are working hard because of the state qualifiers returning. It’s really good for the team.”
While those four will make up the core of the varsity lineup, Cronk is also excited about the development of some of the less-seasoned wrestlers, like Logan Thornton and Zane Ragland. Thornton, a junior 195-pounder, and Ragland, a sophomore at 182, both recorded victories during the Broncos’ season-opening 45-28 victory at home Tuesday against Liberty North.
“Those guys won like 15 or so matches last year on varsity,” Cronk said. “This year, our goal is for those guys to make that big step, and I think if they continue to compete and work as hard as they’re doing, they will.”
Thornton had one of the Broncos’ seven pins against a Liberty North team that also boasts several state qualifiers. Duran (138 pounds), Jones (145), Castaneda (160) and Lane Overton (152) also won by fall along with freshmen Cody Steinbrugge (106) and Caden Schweitzer (113).
“I feel like we did pretty good, but there’s still room for improvement,” Jones said. “I feel like our conditioning needs to be worked on and a few little shots and stuff, but it’s just the beginning of the season. We have plenty of work to do.”
That’s the message Cronk has been trying to send his team this season. North got five wrestlers to state last year, but none of them advanced to the medal rounds. He expects this team to put in the work to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.
“We can’t just rest on, ‘Oh, I was a qualifier last year,’” Cronk said. “Every single one of them has got to get better from this day every day on until February. I really think we have several guys who, if they’ve got their mind right and wrestle well, they can bring home hardware from the state tournament.”