MHS enters new era of wrestling

Luke Cross

New coaches always bring different things to their new programs.

One of the changes new Marshalltown wrestling head coach Luke Cross made was evident at his practice, with the coach sparring against star senior 220-pounder Gannon Williams in a practice match at the end of practice — and giving Williams everything he could handle.

Cross said in the early days of his tenure, he’s made an effort to be heavily involved in practices.

“I’ve been very impressed with the way they’ve responded to a change in leadership and a change in culture,” Cross said. “They’ve been go-getters and I’m really excited to see what they can do.

“I guess the culture change is just more coaches on the mat every practice, and it just makes it harder for the kids to cut corners.”

Marshalltown faces a tough schedule in its final season in the CIML Iowa Conference, and leading the way for the Bobcats has been the group of returners at Cross’s disposal. This includes Williams, the senior who recently committed to play football at North Dakota State, as well as Tristan King, Ivan Pantoja, Damien Rodriguez, Luke Hageman, Nick Rebik and Jose Martinez.

Williams has been a big influence and help for Cross with the locker room and as a leader to the younger wrestlers on the team.

“These guys are my support system,” Cross said. “If I don’t have their support, I lose the whole team. Gannon especially has been a voice in the room.

“He’s been one I really want to give kudos to for his leadership.”

A sizable group of young wrestlers will be hoping to make an impact this season, which Cross said was in part to the participation of the underclassmen in summer practices and workouts, priming them to make a leap in the winter.

Two players Cross singled out as able to make an immediate impact on the squad in 2021-22 were freshmen Xayvion Anderson and Johan Gomez. Both will be making starts in Thursday’s season opener against Ottumwa, with Anderson at 132 pounds and Gomez at 182. Lucas Bantz is starting at 106.

The goal, Cross said, is to get the youngsters growing and learning how to win at the varsity level as they navigate the campaign.

“When I was doing preseason practices, they were in,” Cross said. “They’re just hungry to be good wrestlers and they’re good kids.”

Marshalltown’s season gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Thursday on the road against the Ottumwa Bulldogs in the first test of a new era in Bobcat wrestling.


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