Ashland Tomcat wrestlers are accustomed to lengthy bus rides to the Region 8 Tournament.
For a change, they won’t have to leave their own campus. The 13-team tournament comes to James A. Anderson Gym for the first time Saturday.
“We are excited to have it,” said Jerry Whelan, the Tomcats’ first-year head coach. “It will be action-packed. The kids have worked really hard leading up to this point.”
Joining Ashland will be traditional region power Johnson Central, along with Boyd County, Sheldon Clark, Perry County Central, Phelps, East Ridge, Pike County Central, Bourbon County, Harrison County, Montgomery County, Belfry and Letcher County Central.
Weigh-ins are scheduled for 9 a.m., with competition to begin at about 11. The top four finishers from each of 14 weight classes will advance to the State Tournament.
Whalen rated Johnson Central, Harrison County and Montgomery County among the top teams Saturday.
“I think Johnson Central is younger than usual, but they have a lot of quality kids,” he said.
A small Ashland squad will be represented in only seven divisions, but Whelan hopes the majority of them can make it through to state.
The Tomcats finished second in a seven-team tournament last weekend at Chesapeake, Ohio, had four wrestlers place in a 21-team event in Athens, Ohio.
“We’ve had a pretty good year,” Whelan said. “We do well as individuals. It’s tough as a team to give up that many points and do well in the standings.”
Ashland’s lineup includes Wesley Whelan (106), Austin Pinkerman (113), Justin McDowell (120), Austin McDowell (152), Austin Scarberry (160), Jay Layne (170) and Grant Krueger (182). The Tomcats’ other team member, Brady Smedley, is out with a concussion from a snowboarding accident.
Whelan worked as an assistant coach at Verity Middle School the last two years. He started the wrestling program at Lawrence County in 2000, coaching two state champions there and another at Oldham County.