Friday, January 21, 2000

Campbell wrestlers young but experienced

Enquirer contributor

        This season was supposed to be the Campbell County wrestling team's rebuilding year. Except it's a lot more.

        The Camels have successfully replaced nine seniors from last season's district and regional championship squad and climbed to fourth place in the state coaches poll. They captured the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference title last month, and dual-match losses to Moeller and Harrison are the only blemishes on a 17-2 record.

        “We were wondering, after losing all those seniors, how we'd do,” coach Mike Bankemper said. “This year's seniors went to camp, worked hard all summer. They're inexperienced on the varsity level, but they're experienced wrestlers.”

        Senior Nathan Schmidt has endured the questions, too.

        “It's a lot of pressure,” Schmidt said. “Other wrestlers, they ask me, "Are you going to win state?' We're a young team; we train hard.”

        Campbell County has a history of winning. The Camels won state titles in 1990 and '91 and in past tournaments they've had finalists in all 14 weight classes.

        This year has been different. At the NKAC, only Schmidt (152 pounds), seniors Tyler Hardy (145), Josh Kenneweg (125) and freshman Joe Hagedorn (103) won individual titles.

        Bankemper said he began preparing for this season last year by substituting his younger team members in some varsity tournaments.

        “The starters I have, they know the system,” Bankemper said. “They've wrestled four, five, six years, some longer than that.”

        Schmidt is the most experienced of the group. He won the 145-pound district last year, finished second at regionals and fifth at state. At this year's NKAC, he beat Conner senior Jeremiah Giron, who finished third in the state at 145.

        “I think my mind is more focused,” Schmidt said. “I know this is my last year.”

        Hagedorn and junior 275-pounder Mike Ramsey are the most pleasant surprises.

        At the NKAC, Hagedorn pinned two of the top three seeds and beat top seed Tommy Gabbard of Simon Kenton, 16-7.

        Ramsey has come farthest. He had not wrestled since fifth grade, and as a freshman two years ago he weighed near 350 pounds. He came back to wrestling two years ago because he was burned out on football, and he has dropped nearly 90 pounds.

        “I'm glad I lost (the weight),” Ramsey said. “I was getting disciplined. I try to run every day, at least a mile.”

        Like Hagedorn, Ramsey's highlight came at the NKAC. He didn't win the 275-pound division, but he twice pinned Holy Cross heavyweight Joe Perkins, who was ranked first in the state at the time.

        Bankemper would be happy with a top-five finish at the state duals meet Saturday at Lexington Bryan Station. Ramsey has a higher goal.

        “To get first,” he said. “We could pull it off if we work hard this week. So far, we have.”


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