BARKER — As the cold weather sets in across the greater Niagara-Orleans region, the winds of change are sweeping through the Barker and Roy-Hart wrestling programs.
As is the case for football, the two districts have decided to merge for wrestling. For the first time, Ram and Raider athletes will wrestle as teammates, competing for the same cause. In addition, the program has hired a first-year head coach to lead the way through the transition: Keith Jones, a 1996 Newfane grad who wrestled in high school and was most recently coach of the Panther JV wrestling squad.
Despite the many changes, Jones and the squad are confident in the level of talent across the board, and ready to make a dent in the Niagara-Orleans League this upcoming winter season.
“We’re young, but we expect good things,” Jones said.
To be missed will be departed senior Drew Hull, a Roy-Hart grad who emerged as last year’s state champion in the 145-pound weight class.
But Jones and the staff are excited to monitor the development of a collection of important returning wrestlers, including Barker freshman Brent Bachman, who emerged as league runner-up in the 99-pound weight class as an eighth-grader last year, and junior D.J. Gardner, who fared well last year as a 145-pounder. Barker’s Dillon Mangan placed third last year in the 138-pound weight class, as well.
Roy-Hart returns a pair of strong wrestlers in sophomore Cameron Swick, who advanced to the state qualifiers last year as a 103-pounder, and freshman Jake Stern, a 99-pounder.
Jones will be assisted by John Vosburgh, leading a program that will pool the best of Roy-Hart (which tied for second overall in N-O competition last season at 4-2) and Barker (which finished in the bottom half of the league last year, at 1-5).