LAKEVIEW — The Lakeview Wildcats are off to a good start through the first third of the wrestling season.
After a rebuilding season a year ago, the Wildcats are coming out of winter break with a 14-5 record. Lakeview struggled to a 6-27 record last season.
“The kids are definitely developing into good wrestlers,” Lakeview coach Todd Barton said. “They are putting in a lot of time and a lot of effort. They are buying into the system and looking good.”
Barton is in his second year as coach of the Wildcats wrestling program. The difference so far this year is in experience.
“Having kids return for a second year has helped their confidence in me and themselves on the mat,” Barton said. “That is one of the biggest things I’ve noticed over the course of the season.”
Lakeview is two years removed from a district title and former Wildcat Jordan Betham’s individual state championship. A year ago, Terry Grieser was the only Wildcat to qualify for the individual state tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Wildcats are at Reed City on Wednesday for a CSAA triangular. They are currently 1-1 in the league with a win over Holton and a loss to Chippewa Hills.
“They understand the second part of the season has started,” Barton said. “The strong start to our season has built confidence and has allowed them to grow as wrestlers.”
The Wildcats finished third in the CSAA in 2011. With annual powerhouses Hesperia (ranked No. 3 in Division 4) and Chippewa Hills (ranked No. 8 in Division 3), the Wildcats are hoping for a top three finish in the league.
“We are trying to compete to be top three in the conference and a conference title,” Barton said.
Currently two Wildcats are ranked individually. At 103 pounds, freshman Nolan Saxton (wrestles mostly at 112 pounds) is No. 9 and at 152, Grieser, a senior, is also ranked No. 9.
“Terry is a huge asset to our team. He helps our younger kids develop both on and off the mat,” Barton said. “He is just a great leader all the way around. He does a lot of things outside the wrestling room to help this program.”
Saxton is the son of former Wildcats wrestling coach Greg Saxton.
Despite their record, the Wildcats still have room for plenty of improvement.
“We have to refocus from all these snow days and having Christmas break,” Barton said. “We are coming back now and we have to reset our goals and keep working hard.”