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There are a bunch of new faces, starting from the top down, around the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling program.
Heading into their 2009-10 opener today, a triangular meet hosted by Bernalillo and including Taos, the Hilltoppers are hoping to get a sense of where their numerous youngsters are at physically and with their skill sets.
The opening day roster for Los Alamos includes 10 freshmen, some who are brand new to the sport of wrestling, and a pair of sophomores.
There will be a learning curve and possibly a steep one for much of the team, including for its first-year head coach Robert Geyer.
“In two years, we’ll be tough,” Geyer said. “But this is going to be a long season. There’s going to be a lot of growing pains this year.”
The good news for the Hilltoppers, who have for the better part of the last 15 years been struggling to keep participation numbers up, is that they should be able to fill out most of their weight classes this season should they choose to.
Geyer, however, said he will be very careful with his lineup selections, this season in particular, in an attempt not to throw his younger grapplers into situations they might not be ready for.
Geyer, an assistant for four seasons under former head coach Eric Sorenson, was promoted to the head coaching job during the spring following Sorenson’s resignation.
Los Alamos will have just four wrestlers returning this season from the nine it sent to the state Class AAAA tournament last season.
At 103 pounds, Jodi Cull-Host will return for her sophomore season. Cull-Host advanced to the state tournament last season at that weight, while Cory Geyer, then an eighth-grader, went to state at 119 pounds, although he is currently slated to start the season at 135 pounds.
Desmond Fellers also advanced to state last season at 140 pounds. Fellers, a junior, will move up to at least 152 this season and possibly go as far up at 160.
Fellers said heading into Wednesday’s triangular that he was ready to get his season going in earnest.
“For me, it’s going alright, but I want to start picking it up now,” he said. “We’re going into tournaments now, it’s time to start getting more aggressive.”
The lone senior on the squad is Gary Thorne, who advanced to the state tournament last season at 171 pounds. He will return at that weight after he heals up from a rodeo injury he suffered this past weekend, taking a horn to the lower back during bullriding competition.
Thorne, who said he should be back to working out with the wrestling team sometime next week, thinks he’s ready to step into a leadership role for the Hilltoppers, a role that will be particularly important with such a large contingent of young wrestlers.
“I’m hoping I can pass my wrestling knowledge to them,” he said. “I’ll help them as much as I can so that by the time they’re juniors and seniors they’ll be winning. They’ll be good. With time and experience, they’ll get a lot better.”
The only other upperclassman besides Fellers and Thorne is junior Chris Speight, a transfer from Santa Fe High School.
Geyer said that while things could be rough for awhile, the Hilltoppers’ feeder program at Los Alamos Middle School is thriving and should bring many talented athletes into his fold over the next several seasons.