Deeper squad spurring
confidence as Stars look
for next-level success
By Justin Sokeland
The numbers are up, and so is the expectation level as Bedford North Lawrence prepares for the 2016-17 campaign.
For a program with a limited history of success, BNL coach Roy Bruce Jr. is daring to dream big. The Stars have never won a team sectional championship, they didn’t advance a wrestler out of the regional last season, yet there is a measurable energy and excitement level. There is, after all, strength in numbers.
With a surge in participation (26 will likely be the final tally), and with talent in the midst, BNL is poised for a breakout year. Why not make it historic?
“We want to win now,” Bruce said. “There’s no more time to wait. It’s time to start winning.
“We’re looking for a sectional championship. We believe we have a chance to win. It’s probably the hardest working group I’ve had. The tenacity and the way they go after it is something I’ve never had.”
That optimism springs from the swelled roster that will likely fill all but one weight class (evidently 106-pound badgers are a rare commodity), from a large freshman class than enjoyed success at the junior-high level, and from returning talent.
While only two regional qualifiers are back, others have experience. Bruce expects leadership and production from senior Jacob Ray (who was a sectional winner as a sophomore) at 138, from sophomore Jaren Abel (126), senior Koby Werner (145), junior Cooper Smith (170) and junior Mason Spires (160).
“We expect a lot out of those guys,” Bruce said. “They should have aspirations of going to the semistate. It’s a step by step process, and they should be ready to go to the next step. All you can ask for is a chance.”
BNL will be tested. The schedule includes six dual matches, with the rest comprised of weekend tournaments. Those will help the Stars prepare for the postseason.
“I think tournaments are great,” Bruce said. “The ultimate goal is making the state finals, and that’s an individual tournament. The more individual tournaments you can wrestle, the more you can understand the system, you’ve had that pressure on you before. You understand what it takes to place.”
The Stars will open the season with the BNL Duals on Nov. 19.