By Ray Hamill — Big things are expected out of the Hoopa Warriors in wrestling this winter in what is head coach Merk Robbins’ first full season in charge.
Robbins took over the program from long-time head coach Mike Lee last January and coached the team during a very brief spring season.
This winter, however, he’s preparing for a full season and so far so good for the Warriors, who have impressed at their opening few tournaments and expect to challenge for a H-DNL championship.
“If we can get everybody in their right weight class, I think we’ve got a real good shot at competing for a league championship,” Robbins said. “I’m at least expecting a few champions and some to do well at sections.”
In the opening month of the season, the Warriors have traveled for tournaments at Del Norte, McKinleyville and Grants Pass, with several wrestlers placing in the top three at all three tournaments.
Big things are expected out of Kaewett Nelson at 160 pounds, as well as Gerard Marshall at heavyweight.
“He’s just a solid wrestler,” Robbins said of Nelson. “He has a solid foundation and I’m just confident he’s going to do well every time he goes out there.”
Marshall brings a quickness to the mats.
“He can move good for a big guy,” the head coach said.
Jason Marshall at 170 and Ryan Ames at 138 are both also expected to make some serious noise this winter.
“He’s tough,” Robbins said of Jason Marshall. “And he’s been wrestling for a long time.”
Ames, meanwhile, is one of the team’s strongest wrestlers.
“He’s super strong,” Robbins said. “And he’s exciting to watch. He’s pretty much going to throw somebody when he wrestles.”
The roster features 10 boys and two girls, including sophomore Vanessa King, who took first in the 100-pound weight class at Grants Pass.
Antonio Correa also is expected to have a good season and he took first in the 182-pound JV division at Grants Pass.
“They’re all pretty consistent,” Robbins said of the roster. “They show up and they practice and they work hard.”
The Warriors will return to the mats this week when they travel for a dual meet at Eureka, and Robbins is expecting a tough challenge from a Loggers team that should be among the best in the H-DNL this year, along with perennial powerhouse Del Norte.
The Warriors are also scheduled to compete in another tournament at Anderson High this weekend.