FORTVILLE — There is youth and experience and sometimes both in the Mt. Vernon wrestling team’s 2023-24 varsity lineup.
Shawn Taylor, a region qualifier a year ago, is currently the lone senior in the starting lineup. A standout on the football team, Taylor is expected to wrestle in the 165-class.
The rest of head coach Randal Hayes lineup will be youthful, but in some cases that will be young and already successful.
No current Hancock County wrestler has had more tournament success than junior 215-pounder Devin Kendrex.
Already a two-time state-qualifier, Kendrex was the county’s top finisher at last year’s state meet, placing fifth in the 220-pound class. He was also a Hoosier Heritage Conference and regional champion. Kendrex was 43-5 last season. He’s currently ranked No. 2 in his weight class of wrestlers that come out of the New Castle Semi-State.
Kendrex is coming off a year where he returned to playing football in the fall. Previously, he had been a non-stop wrestler.
“He has gone three years without a break. Getting away for a few months he regained that hunger,” Hayes said. “He missed it. He missed it a lot. He’s coming back in with that rejuvenation of not being around it and is just excited. You get a good athlete excited there’s really no way to stop them.”
Eli Broady is just a sophomore but he’s expected to be a major contender in the 126-pound class. He reached the state tournament as a 120-class frosh, losing a tough 1-0 decision in his opener. He went 36-7 last season and is currently ranked No. 1 out of New Castle.
Connor Bayliss, a junior, is the third returning state qualifier on the Marauders roster. A state qualifier and regional champion at 106 a year ago, he will move up to 113. He was 37-9 last season and is ranked No. 3 in his weight class.
Who knows how far sophomore Ty Barnhart would have got last year. He wrestled up a class at 113 as a freshman and had a good season cut short with a season-ending injury at the HHC tournament. He had won 16 matches before his injury. He will be the starter at 106.
Elijah Kiner is another senior, but he will be out for the first portion of the season. He is ranked No. 6 at 157. Last year he was a semi-state qualifier at 152 and won 19 matches.
Most of the remaining spots will include youngsters, too, but they will be first-timers in the starting lineup.
While Kiner is out, Brooks McKeeman, a backup to Kiner last year, is expected to be at 157.
McKeeman, Robert Dotson (sophomore, 150) and Joliba Brogan (junior, 175) are among the top newcomers.
“It’s going to take a while for some of the younger guys get used to the system and get used to tougher longer practices and the higher level competition,” Hayes said. “Our schedule is one of the most brutal schedules in the state. Some of the guys are going to take some lumps early, but by the time we get to January, some of our freshmen and sophomores, they are going to surprise some people and will be battle tested for sure. They may not have the greatest records but they will be tough outs.
“It’s a group that is really invested and tied in.”
Mt. Vernon opened the season today at the Lawrence Township Duals. The Marauders return to action with a home dual against Carmel on Nov. 29.
2023-24 Mt. Vernon Wrestling Schedule
Nov. 18;at Lawrence Twp. Invitational;9 a.m.
Nov. 29;vs. Carmel;6:30 p.m.
Dec. 2;at Shamrock Duals;9 a.m.
Dec. 9;at Chris Traicoff Memorial (Calumet);10 a.m.
Dec. 13;at New Palestine;6 p.m.
Dec. 15;at Delta;7 p.m.
Dec. 29;at Al Smith Invitational (Mishawaka);10 a.m.
Dec. 30;at Al Smith Invitational (Mishawaka);9 a.m.
Jan. 3;vs. Pendleton Heights;6:30 p.m.
Jan. 6;at Jennings County Super Dual;9 a.m.
Jan. 10;at North Central;6 p.m.
Jan. 13;at HHC (Pendleton Heights);8:30 a.m.