ATHENS — Longtime Athens wrestling coach Shawn Bradley says the
Wildcats will be a mix of experienced grapplers and newcomers in 2021.
had some guys not come out that we were expecting to be here, but we
have some studs back, and some promising young kids,” he said.
PIAA place-finisher Gavin Bradley, who was 40-4 and finished seventh in
the state, is the headline wrestler returning for the Wildcats.
(Bradley) is back. He worked his butt off again this summer, and works
hard in here every day,” said Shawn Bradley. “He didn’t get the 80
matches he wrestled last offseason, but he still food a way to get his
Also returning are Kaden Setzer (21-9), Jake Courtney (13-9), Zach Stafursky (20-20), and Karter Rude (19-11).
“Jake Courtney and Kaden Setzer, who have both worked their tails off, are back,” said Bradley.
(Stafursky) had a little knee injury in the spring, but he’s healthy
and he’s back for us,” noted Bradley. “He’s our lone senior.
of our better wrestlers may not spend all their time on wrestling, but
they’re stud athletes,” added Bradley in reference to Rude.
Also returning are juniors Lucas Forbes (5-11) and Colin Rosh (2-7).
Senior Kyler Setzer (20-9) is battling an injury and is questionable for the season.
The Wildcats have a host of newcomers in the room this year. Bradley has high hopes for at least two of them.
glad to have (sophomore) Chris Bathgate in the room,” he said. “He
really hasn’t wrestled in high school yet, but he’s a stud.
“And (freshman) Josh Nittinger went to States as an 8th-grader last year.
“There’s a lot of promise here,” added Bradley. “We just have to cultivate it, and keep working forward.”
Other newcomers include Josiah Stringham, and freshmen Mason Vanderpool, Ryan LaSusa, and Brock Dennison.
took note of the absence of a handful of wrestlers not back from last
year’s team, and said he has made changes in his style of coaching.
the past, guys would tell horror stories about our practices, but I’ve
had to change it up,” said Bradley. “Kids just aren’t use to that level
of intensity anymore. Most of them don’t really want that anymore, so we
have to be able to coach to both groups; that’s the biggest thing we’re
trying to change.
“We’ve had to adjust up our practice schedule
because we’ve lost kids, so we’ve had to change it up a little bit to
try to keep more kids,” added Bradley. “It’s a different world right
Bradley also tipped his cap to longtime assistant coach Jay White, who takes care of the Wildcats’ schedule.
can’t say enough about what Jay (White) has done with our schedule,” he
said. “He’s probably re-done our schedule four times already. I know
he’s done it twice this week.”
Bradley has always been a proponent of a tough schedule.
want to test these kids up front. You don’t want the first time they’re
tested to be the semifinals of districts,” said Bradley. “If the first
time you’re down one point is with 20 left is in the semis at Districts,
you’re in deep trouble.”
He’s also never been a fan of dual meets.
problem is duals allows other teams to dodge your studs if they want
to,” he said. “You can chase good matches, which a lot of times you’ll
see us do.
“I’ll tell a coach before-hand I want our kid to
wrestle your kid because it will make them both better; that’s more
important than winning the dual,” added Bradley.
has also undergone some major changes this season. Instead of advancing
from Regionals to States, wrestlers will have to compete in a Super
Just the top three in each weight class from the
Northeast Regional will advance to the Super Regional, which will
feature five wrestlers in each weight class from the Southeast Region.
The top four in each weight class will advance to States.
“It could be good or bad,” said Bradley. “Guys will have to peak at the right time.
of all, Sectionals are at Athens, which is not a terrible thing,”
laughed Bradley. “Our guys will get to wrestle in their own gym.
are all going to be one-day tournaments, and that could be a tough
thing because if you have a bad day, your postseason could be over,”
noted Bradley. “In the past, you could lose Friday night at Districts,
but come back Saturday and win four or five matches and move on. You
won’t have that option this year, you have to be on.
to be a little different,” added Bradley. “Kids are going to have to
scale themselves a little bit different, so they can wrestle those
one-day events and be at a peak performance.”
The Super Regional will make it even more difficult to get to States.
there are going to be four State medalists there at Gavin’s weight,”
said Bradley. “Those are things you’re dealing with when you do it this
way. Kids are going to have to be on.
“But, if you place at Super
Regionals, you know you have a State medal,” added Bradley. “Hopefully,
it takes a little pressure off these guys and they let if fly at
Athens opens the 2021 season tonight at Canton.