by MICHAEL LEONARD | SPORTS EDITOR
Rick Charlton knows he has got some big shoes to fill.
The Streetsboro head wrestling coach enters his 11th season in charge looking to fill the void left by a very talented class of 2012.
Three-time PTC champion Kelly “Bubba” Baker, along with district qualifiers Chris Ashburn, Zack Baratko and Travis Smosny all have graduated.
That group led the Rockets to an overall record of 6-4. Streetsboro finished 4-3 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division last season.
“Our top four wrestlers in terms of wins all graduated,” Charlton said. “We definitely have some holes to fill this season. We’re going to be missing some people at a few weights.”
Charlton notes he’s going to need to see improvement during the season if the Rockets wish to be competitive. He believes they have the drive to do so.
“We’re going to look to get better as individuals and as a team,” Charlton said. “The work ethic of the kids we have is excellent. They tasted some success last year and are really working hard to taste it again.”
With only “about 20” wrestlers in the room, Charlton is aware his team must stay healthy.
“A few injuries here or there and it’s going to be hard for us to win dual meets,” Charlton said.
After being undersized for his first two seasons with the Rockets, junior Sean Kuklisin finally has grown into a full-sized 106-pounder. Kuklisin reached a Division II district meet last season despite finishing with a record of 13-21 on the season.
“Sean has worked very hard this offseason,” Charlton said. “He put on some size and got a lot stronger. He should be ready for a big year.”
Sophomore Joe Tiebel saw time on junior varsity last year and could fill in at 106 if Kuklisin doesn’t come down to the weight.
Charlton said he could have an open slot at 113 pounds depending on what the minimum weight is for sophomore Aaron Dantimo, who went 9-16 at 113 last season.
Freshman Lucas Austin might fill the 113-pound slot or move up to 120 pounds.
Streetsboro might get a boost at 126 pounds with the arrival of junior George Anderson, who moved into the district from Twinsburg.
Among the Rockets’ lightweights, the returning wrestler with the most experience is junior 132-pounder Chris Dynowski. Dynowski finished with a record of 24-13 last season — best among the returning Rockets — and qualified for the district competition.
Charlton is looking for a lot more from Dynowski this season.
“He has been having a great week of practice,” Charlton said. “I’m looking for a breakout year this year. He was really helped by making it to districts.”
Junior Justin Baratko is expected to get the starting nod at 138 pounds. After a solid freshman season, Baratko was stuck in the reserves most of last season.
“Justin has been wrestling behind some of our best juniors and seniors the last two years,” Charlton said. “I’m looking for Justin to battle to become a district qualifier this season.”
Charlton admits junior Conor Austin was “thrown to the varsity wolves” last season as he wrestled up two weight classes above where he should have during his first varsity season.
As a result, Austin finished the season 2-20, but Charlton believes he will have much better season as he gets the nod at 145 pounds this winter.
Junior Kyle Woods just missed a trip to districts last season at 145 pounds. Woods finished 17-17 last season, but Charlton expects much more this winter.
“He really came along last year,” Charlton said. “As our schedule got harder, you could see he leveled out last year. This year, we’re hoping he can win some matches.”
Charlton said the Rockets will have open slots at 160 and 170 pounds this season.
Charlton said he will have some combination of sophomore Ryan Adkins (7-17) and junior Riley Beale (4-0) filling in at 182 and 195 pounds, respectively, but he’s not certain how they will fit.
At 220 pounds, sophomore Tyler Rowland will step up after spending most of his time at junior varsity last season. Charlton said Rowland’s experience working with Baker last season should aid his progress.
“Wrestling Bubba all last year, he understands what it means to compete at a high level,” Charlton said.
Heavyweight Sam Creque is the lone senior on Streetsboro’s roster. Creque went 14-15 last season and qualified for districts, despite being undersized for a heavyweight.
Charlton said Creque is expected to wrestle “in the 240s” this season.
“He definitely is bigger and stronger,” Charlton said. “He hit the weights with the football team this offseason. Sammy has got a some experience and he’s going to win with some technique.”
Stretsboro’s assistant coaches include Chris Clift, Bob Kirtley and Jack Hickin.
Regarding the Metro Division, Charlton believes the top three teams from last season’s race should remain near the top.
“Crestwood, Coventry and Field all are very good programs right now,” Charlton said. “We’re excited to compete against them.”
Streetsboro is scheduled to open its season at the Paulie McGhee Invitational at Aurora Dec. 1. First match is set for 11 a.m.