The Golden Bears have 22 wrestlers competing on the team, which is the most that they have ever had. Lincoln will have two teams competition in today’s Golden Bear Classic.
“Every year you come in thinking I am going to try to get 15 or 16 good guys,” Lincoln head coach Brian Kelly said. “As October came along and the first week of November I had six kids in one day, all ninth graders say that they wanted to wrestle. I told them to come out today to see if they like it keep coming back and if you don’t like it no harm. They all came back and stuck with it. I picked up a couple more along the day. Right now it is early in the season and the guys have to get their weight managed. We have a lot of people in certain weight classes, but as the year goes on some will gain weight and some will lose weight so it would be spread out.”
This season, Kelly and the Golden Bears’ ultimate goal is to hoist up the Class 4A state championship trophy at the end of the season.
“My goal is to compete at state,” Kelly said. “When I say compete, I mean place at state. My goal is to bring eight guys at least to state. We have the returning guys and some new guys that are showing promise. Some of these guys if the keep getting better every week I don’t see why they can’t be as competitive as some of the other guys in the area, but time will tell.”
Kelly said that Jamario Howard and Micah Gaston have done an excellent job as leaders for the Golden Bears.
“They are stepping up,” Kelly said. “Micah is a senior and he is like this my chance. With the new guys coming out if I need to do something I turn to Jamario (Howard), Micah and Austin Blanton and they get it done. I think they realize that they have something special going on, because this many kids. I think the more kids the better your program is going to be. It gives them good partners to go against and the more likely we are to win tournaments as a group. When you fill every weight class you have a better chance. They see all the kids that we have out right now and they are like hey we have something special going on right now.”
Last year, Howard fell in the finals at state. Howard, who won state as a freshman said that losing last year as a sophomore has motivated him.
“It motivates me in everything that I do,” Howard said. “Going through football season all I could think about was losing the state finals in wrestling. I know it is a different sport, but it all rolls over. When you get the ball that is not going through your head. You get in and are like I lost there so I could lose here, but I don’t want to lose here. It makes you work harder knowing that you were one point away from being a two-time state champion. It hurts, but I am working a lot hard than I did last year and I am ready for it.”
Gaston also fell short in the state tournament, but as a senior he would like to go out with a state championship.
“First of all, I just want to make it back,” Gaston said. “Hopefully, I can help some people along the way. It is my senior year and I want to go out with a bang.”
Austin Blanton wants to win the state in the 285 pound weight class, but he is focused on trying to have a good showing a today’s Golden Bear Classic.
“We are proud to have all these guys out here,” Blanton said. “We have never had this many, we think we can do something with them. A lot of people have never wrestled, but you can tell that they want to do good. Tomorrow I want to place individually and we want to place as a team. I would like to win this tournament, we have never done that.”