A young Fortuna wrestling team got the H-DNL dual meet season off to a successful start on Wednesday night, winning four of the seven matches against McKinleyville.
After graduating a large senior class in 2021, the Huskies have a much younger roster this season, but with several talented underclassmen on hand the future of the program appears to be in good hands.
Despite their youth, the Fortuna boys have impressed at tournaments over the first month of the season, with strong showings at Del Norte, McKinleyville and Grants Pass, including a second-place finish for the JVs out of 34 teams in Grants Pass.
Asa Mckenzie, who is one of the few seniors on the team, will provide some much-needed leadership on the young roster and got his league campaign off to a winning start at 152 pounds on Wednesday.
The Huskies also got victories from sophomores Hayden Mela at 182 and Mason Evanow at 120, as well as from freshman Colton Toole at 145.
Two other freshmen — Austin Butcher at 106 and Cole Simon at 160 — both also had impressive showings on Wednesday despite their young age.
“Austin’s a freshman that’s already won a couple of tournaments,” co-head coach Steven Stockdale said. “He could be a league champ at 106. He’s come out of the gates swinging for sure.”
Simon, according to his coach, is “aggressive and gets after it.”
Likewise with junior Orion Cahill, who also competed at 170 pounds on Wednesday.
Three other seniors are also expected to be a force for the Huskies this season, including Weylan McKnight at 184, Angel Martine at 195, and heavyweight Billy Elliot.
The Huskies are also expected to make some serious noise in the H-DNL in girls wrestling this winter and four of their five grapplers are returning league champions, including senior Tristan Jones.
“Our girls are pretty tough and they’ve all seen some success,” Stockdale said. “There’s a good shot the four of them do it again.”
The girls team, which also includes Chloe Cox, Nanice Ford, Lindsay Bibby and Lonna Torrez, placed third overall out of 24 teams at the Grants Pass tournament while going up against far larger rosters.
One notable addition to the program this season is the return of former Huskies coach Gary Landergan, who is back in the area and co-head coach of the team along with Stockdale.
Landergan coached the Huskies in the 1990s before taking over the program at Argonaut High, and Stockdale appreciates having him back.
“He has a great rapport with all of the kids,” Stockdale said of Landergan, who coached some of the current wrestlers’ parents back in the day. “It’s great to have him back.”
The Huskies will be back in action in a dual meet at Del Norte next week, before heading to Eureka High for the North Coast Classic on Jan. 15.
The following week, they will host a dual meet against all four Little 4 teams, each of which is fielding a team this season.