The 2019-2020 Knoxville Panther wrestling program has a total of 25 athletes on the roster in grades 9 through 12.
Of the 25, 10 are returning letter winners who coach Doug Hatch is leaning on to lead the way along with a talented group of freshmen.
Returning lettermen include seniors Gabe Gordon, JJ Beaver, Koby Gordon, Nash Linsley, Jax Bellon, Cael Hollinrake, Ian Crossett and Ben Brewster.
Zack Elliott is a junior who lettered las year as did sophomore Sean Collins.
Hatch is in his sixth season with the Knoxville varsity wrestling program. Overall he has coached the sport 27 years, 24 as a head coach.
Hatch stated, “The strength of this team is it is a strange combination of a big senior class with a lot of experience and a tough ready to go freshman class. I think the two will work together to combine for some great outcomes. We could be almost two deep at every weight!”
As for the team weakness, “Many freshman will be pushed into varsity action a year or two earlier than I would like. It’s nice to see those guys work on things at the JV level, instead they will be asked to step up and compete right away at the varsity level.”
In looking around the South Central Conference, Hatch stated, “It is a wrestling conference, that is pretty strong from top to bottom. The team has set a goal to win conference.”
The Panthers lost some top notch individuals from a year ago to graduation.
We lost some great wrestlers and leaders. Coby Meyer was a guy I could count on for big wins, big pins, and leadership. Nyan Baker was getting so much better every time he took the mat and was a great leader that I knew would lead our younger guys in the right direction. Eli Hamilton battled through injuries and gave us a lot of great moments. I wish we had another year with Neils Scheelhhaase, Carson Shinn and Nathan Sample. I will truly miss those guys in big meets and in the practice room.”
Hatch said the goals are to qualify for Regional Duals, send seven to Districts and 3 to State.