With apologies to Andy Williams, this is the most wonderful time of the year for Whitfield coach Charlie Sherertz. Wrestling season has started.
The veteran coach, entering his 21st year at Whitfield, has helped put the Warriors’ program on the map. In the last 10 years, Whitfield has finished first or second in the Class 1 state wrestling tournament.
“I’ve been pretty anxious to get things rolling,” Sherertz said.
Last year, the Warriors finished a close second as a team in Class 1 at the 86th annual Missouri Wrestling Championship. Whitfield ended with 154.5 points. Seneca took first with 160 points. Three Warriors were named individual state champs.
“We’ve done well in the last 10 years with five state championships,” Sherertz said. “We let a couple of them slip away. It would be nicer in my opinion if we had seven state titles. We also had some good wins in there.”
Sherertz said he likes his chances, but added “We really need to get into the heat of battle and see what we’re made of; so far, so good.”
This year is a first in Sherertz’ coaching career. He named four of his matmen as team captains: juniors Max Darrah, Mike McAteer and J.R. Ditter, along with senior Dylan Shotwell.
Though Sherertz has never had four captains before, he said the “boys all bring something to be there. They earned it. They all have different personalities and I think they’ll all help to make up a stronger.”
McAteer, Darrah and Ditter are all state champions.
McAteer won last winter at 113 pounds. It was his second title. As a freshman, McAteer won at 106, going 49-0. He defeated Maplewood’s Ronald Stewart for the second consecutive season to claim the crown. McAteer won his first state crown by pin. In his second title match, he recorded a 9-4 decision. He finished last year at 44-5.
Darrah won at 220 pounds. Finishing at 48-3, he won by a 3-2 decision over Sam Hasekamp, of Centralia. His season, however, was cut short when he broke his arm in the MICDS Tournament.
Dylan Shotwell finished fifth as a freshman at state.
Sherertz noted that half of his team are state medalists. But there’s no time to rest on their laurels. The Warriors have another tough schedule ahead of them.
Once again, Whitfield will compete in the Granite City Invitational right after Christmas. That meet boasts a strong field. The Warriors also will be in the Kyle Thrasher Tournament at Francis Howell and the MICDS Tournament as well as the Mount Olive and Route 141 Tournament at Summit.
“I’m pretty comfortable with our schedule,” Sherertz said. “It’s solid. I just think you’re more hardened, more seasoned going against bigger schools. The pace is higher. Instead of getting a match or two that’s tough, you’re tested time and time again.
“I’m fortunate that coaches I compete against see us a worthy school and want to wrestle us . They don’t just look at us as a Class 1 school but as a worthy foe.”
At 120 pounds, McAteer will be going for a third title this season.
“Mike is not a real emotional kid,” Sherertz said. “He’s consistent and he does his thing. He quietly keeps kicking butt.”
Darrah will be moving up to heavyweight this season.
“He was 220 last year and he’s up a little higher,” Sherertz said. “He will start out there and may go back to 220. He’s in a good place now.”
Sherertz is glad to see Ditter back in action at 126.
“He’s hungry. Being a state champion and then breaking your arm and having to sit out the state meet is tough,” Sherertz said. “We’re anticipating big things out of him. I don’t have to worry about motivating JR. He’s got an axe to grind.”
Sophomore Wade Raeman was second in 106 at state last year. Max Roark, of Seneca, won by fall over Raeman in the title match. Also back will be junior Noah Elmore, who finished fifth and senior Richard Jordan, who finished sixth at state.
Sherertz said it’s a good mix of athletes.
“Our big goal this year is to become a more unified team,” Sherertz said. “Last year, we had a big group of individuals and we’re really stressing becoming a better team this year. We’re relying on one another and pushing one another.
“We’re all about being better teammates and better friends. Ultimately, I’m confident our leadership is better. We didn’t have a captain on our team last year and we have four this year. We’ve got a better chemistry going. It’s going to be fun.”